Staying Cool When The Job Heats Up
Jobs are heating up. We're all feeling the pinch
of hiring freezes and information overload.
Workplace stress is increasing right along with
Headaches are turning into migraines; back pains
are driving us to the chiropractor, and minor
irritations are causing tempers to flair.
In addition to our personal reaction to stress, it
is taking its toll on the bottom line. Stress is
driving up the cost of health care, and we can see
a huge impact in things like tardiness,
absenteeism, personnel turnover, and accidents.
The annual price tag of stress in corporate
America is more than $150 billion.
While forecasters tell us we can expect more of
the same, we need our jobs, and we need to find
ways to control the stressors that are affecting
our health and productivity.
Here are 11 ways you can keep your cool and
minimize the impact of stress on your life.
Do your own job - When poor the work habits of
others create stress, remember why you're there.
Pay attention to your own job. You will not be
rated on the performance of others, but the boss
will note the quality of your work. Stay focused
on the job you were hired for, and let management
deal with improving the department or the company.
Don't get stressed about things that are not your
Organization - Regardless of company expectations,
you can alleviate a lot of your stress by
organizing your work space and getting a firm
grasp on the work that must be done. Even if you
have to pay for it yourself, get the tools needed
to organize your effort, e.g. files, furniture,
PDAs, software, and training. Work with your boss
to prioritize projects and routine tasks. Only
get concerned about unfinished work if the boss
gives it a priority. You'll never get everything
done, so pick the most important and file
everything else in an easy to reach file drawer.
Communication - It's important to maintain your
supervisor's comfort level, so meet with them as
often as necessary to keep them informed of
projects and progress. Give them updates the way
they want them (email, memos, briefings, etc.),
and persist in getting the feedback that is so
important in reducing stress. Use this same
strategy with those who give you information or
products to do your job and those who depend on
what you give them. Good communication is
essential for good stress control.
Interruptions - Avoid stressful interruptions by
controlling your schedule and your communications.
Establish times for meeting with those who want
information from you and hold them to it. The
more persistent you are, the more organized they
will be. Handle phone calls and respond to email
during specific times. Develop a list of people
and events that disrupt your job and work with
each until it is under control.
Family Time - Family situations are among the
greatest stressors at work. There's an old axiom
that says, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody
happy." It's true. Avoid future problems by
prioritizing family time on your schedule and
stick to it. Get professional help if you're
unable to resolve sticky situations.
Exercise - More than 80% of all doctor's visits
are stress related. Those who find time to
exercise reduce stress, strengthen their immune
system, and improve their well being. Do a little
research and talk with the experts to find out
what fits your needs. Make the exercise part of
your work schedule if possible; don't let it cut
into family time. Regular exercise can add years
to your own life and make you more productive for
Nutrition - Proper nutrition is a key to stress
control. The US Army recognizes proper nutrition
as a critical element in controlling stress among
combat soldiers, and you must admit, your job is
sometimes as stressful as combat. Use the
Internet or get information from Human Resources
to improve nutrition. You'll have to make some
deliberate changes because our eating habits are
affected by our culture, the expectations of
others, inadequate knowledge about what makes a
proper diet. Learn what is needed and make a
Rest - Take charge of your sleep habits in the
same way you work on your eating habits. Sleep
deprivation is a major stressor by itself, and it
adds to the problem with other stressful events.
Cut out the late night television. Quit taking
work home from the office. Change the pattern of
your weekend parties. Get some new friends. Do
whatever is necessary to get back on track with
seven or eight hours sleep every night. Studies
show that twenty minute power naps make us more
productive, so use part of your lunch break for
nutrition and part for a short nap to control
stress. You'll get more done.
Discussion - Tell people what's on your mind. If
you can't ignore someone's special talent for
bugging you, talk it over with them. There's a
good chance they are unaware of the offense, so
you don't need to get up tight about it. In a
friendly tone of voice, let them know what gets
under your skin and be ready to make some
concessions yourself. As you now know, their
irritating habit is probably magnified by other
stressors, so make sure you've done what you can
to control stress before challenging anyone.
Education - The more educated you are about your
job, the less stressful it becomes. Even if
you've been on the job for years, there's always
more to learn about the upstream and downstream
impact of what you do. Stay up to date with trade
journals, books, and other research. Become the
expert at what you do and coach others. While
some companies do not pay for this type education,
your own investment will make you more valuable to
your company. What you know is portable - and it
looks good on a resume.
Volunteer - Helping others has an immediate impact
on stress levels. Build in some family time by
volunteering as a family once a month. Build
rapport with supervisors and co-workers by
organizing a once-a-week lunchtime volunteer
program. Lead a food or clothing collection for
needy employees or families outside your company.
Create a support-the-troops letter writing
campaign so everyone in the company communicates
regularly with GI's away from home. In short,
doing something for someone else takes your mind
off the stressors that bother you most.
Each of these stress relievers works independently
of the others. Find one that's practical for you
and put it to work. Friends, family, and
co-workers will all notice the changes in you and
thank you for making the effort.
For a free article about the top ten workplace
stressors and how to tame them, send email to
11 Ways to Keep Your Cool
Do your own job
Communicate with the boss and others
Schedule Family Time
Get 8 hours sleep a night
Let others know what bugs you
Learn new things about your job
Volunteer to help others
Copyright 2005 - Dale Collie
About the Author: Dale Collie (MailTo:firstname.lastname@example.org) speaker, author, and former US Army Ranger, CEO,and professor at West Point. Selected by "Fast Company" as one of America's Fast 50 innovative leaders. Author of "Frontline Leadership: From War Room to Boardroom," and "Winning Under Fire: Turn Stress into Success the US Army Way." (McGraw-Hil) F`r`e`e newsletter upon request: MailTo:email@example.com