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The Key to Managing Your Workplace Stress

Work stress is not necessarily a negative force. In fact, without a certain level of stress to challenge us, our jobs would be boring and unrewarding. Stress becomes a problem, however, when it reaches such an extreme that we are unable to cope with it. The solution to stress, therefore, is not to eliminate it altogether but to maintain it at a level where it remains a positive motivating force. Here are ten of the best simple strategies for keeping stress in check. They’re easy to remember – and they work…

1. Create a pleasant work environment for yourself.

If you spend a great deal of time in your office, make it pleasant, without being self-indulgent. Convert your tired office into a place you can enjoy – with art pieces, rug, greenery, bookcase, paintings, and tapestries. And discipline yourself to keep that desk uncluttered.

2. Keep perfectionism in check.

Trying to be perfect in everything is not only self-defeating: it’s also a major stress-generator. Learn what you are good at doing and perfect those skills.

3. Manage your time.

If you want to manage stress, you have to manage time. Of the stress faced by administrators, none is so pervasive as the stress of time. Forget about finding more hours in a day. Instead, use the existing hours more effectively. Set aside time for planning, contemplation, relaxation, and problem-solving. Tackle the problems of drop-in visitors, the open door, telephone calls, and procrastination. Remember that time is the lit fuse of stress.

4. Avoid false guilt.

Be determined not to allow staff to make you feel guilty about something you or your organisation did. Be tolerant of your own mistakes: will anyone really care 100 years or 100 days from now? Try not to judge, criticise, or devalue yourself and your sense of adequacy. Be prepared to lose a few battles without feeling you are losing face. Learn to ignore that inner voice that tells you you should do this or should have done that. Becoming stressed about things beyond your control does little to resolve a problem.

5. Drive your own bus.

You can’t allow everyone’s problem to become yours. By all means provide a sympathetic ear – but remember that most people are capable of solving their own problems and will grow from the experience.

Nor is there a rule that says you must be available to everyone, or that you must never say ‘no’ to any request. You simply can’t satisfy all demands. So, if you’re the person in the driving seat, take charge of the controls.

6. Be selective about what you take on.

Resist the urge to take on everything. Remember that you’re judged on the work you complete, not on the amount you take on. Slow down. Be selective. Learn to delegate duties and responsibilities. Say ‘no’ a little more often. Winning every round of the contest may not be necessary to succeed in the long term. Learn to discern what is worth being competitive about and what isn’t. Focus on the things that really matter.

7. Plan and prioritise.

Stress often results from loss of direction. So, by establishing clear, detailed objectives and formulating plans and priorities to meet them, you will eradicate many ambiguities, eliminate confusion, and remove the anxiety that accompanies unplanned activity. Help to neutralise stress by achieving the sense of accomplishment that is associated with projects completed, deadlines met, and goals achieved.

8. Develop a support system for yourself.

Create an informal support network that will enable you to let off steam, receive moral support, accept helpful advice, and share ideas and feelings in a leisure or social setting. The network might comprise mentors, professional colleagues, friends, or relatives. But make sure they’re positive, trustworthy and enthusiastic – not prophets of doom and gloom.

9. Look after your body and soul.

You can go a long way towards managing personal stress at work by improving your own lifestyle. Consider these strategies:

  • Take a short break every 90 minutes.
  • Practise relaxation techniques daily.
  • Eat only nutritious food.
  • Commit yourself to exercise.

-Get enough sleep.

  • Have an annual medical check-up.
  • Avoid harbouring resentments.
  • Have fun. Enjoy life outside work.
  • Think positively.
  • Develop a network of social support.
  • Protect your leisure time: make time for play and hobbies.

10. Accept stress as a natural part of life.

Remember that you are not life’s target, so don’t react to stressful situations with ‘why me’? Instead, have confidence in your ability to work through the potentially stressful periods and recognise that ‘this too shall pass’. Stress goes with the territory; it comes with the job. Learn to manage it.

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