How to handle stress? Stress management can be difficult because there are different kinds of stress, namely acute stress, episodic stress and chronic stress. Each with its own symptoms, duration and treatment approaches. For this blogpost we will focus on how to handle stress.
In order to function productive and effective stress needs to be reduced as much as possible. And, obviously, the less stress you have in your life, the better you will feel.
There are different types of stress. Each type of stress needs another approach. We will look into the three types of stress and how to handle stress accordingly. All the types of stress have different symptoms and different ways to reduce them.
Acute stress is the most common type of stress. It is the type of stress you feel when a deadline is approaching. Acute stress is thrilling and can even be exciting, in small doses. But too much acute stress will exhaust you. Short-term stress is nothing to be fearful of. But long term stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches and an upset stomach, among other things. Because acute stress is mostly short term it’s effects can be handled, there is no permanent damage done. Acute stress is most easily manageable. Common symptoms of acute stress are:
When you suffer from acute stress more frequently you might experience the problems of episodic acute stress. People who are always in a rush, or have too much on their plate without knowing it, put pressure on themselves, and seem caught by acute stress. People who suffer from episodic acute stress have a lot of nervous energy, are short-tempered, irritable or anxious. The workplace might become a very stressful place for them.
People who worry much have a larger chance to suffer from episodic acute stress. They are more afraid of the world around them and are overly aroused and tense. The symptoms of episode acute stress are:
Handling episodic acute stress can be tricky, because a lot of interventions and changes might me necessary. Generally a form of professional help is required. Even more so, lifestyle and personality issues are sometimes at the foundation of the episodic acute stress.
This is the toughest, meanest form of stress. This type wears people down day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies and minds and wreaks havoc by means of long term attrition. Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. This type of stress is the result of unrelenting demands and pressures for long periods of time.
Chronic stress can be a product of a trauma. Due to the fact that personality or convictions might be needed to change in order to reduce chronic stress, this is the most difficult type of stress to deal with. The long term effect of chronic stress deplete mental and physical resources. In order to defeat the chronic stress extended medical and behavioural treatment might be needed, in combination with stress management.
It is highly likely that you suffer from acute stress in the office, from time to time. For this blogpost I will focus on acute stress, as the other forms of stress require more help than just reading an online article. Let’s take a look at what can cause acute stress and how to reduce this type of stress.
In order to handle stress you will have to:
You should have some view on what causes your stress. Is it a looming deadline? Or are you not doing the things you like?
Focus on the things you can exert influence over, try not to worry about the things that are beyond your control. What will be, will be. Know how you spend your time. Do you focus too much on busy work? Where are your priorities and do you enable yourself to complete your most important goals? Also, learn about the difference between caring and worrying. There is a clear difference between the two. Caring is good, worrying not. You should try to worry as less as possible. Also, set clear boundaries. These boundaries can be internal, like what you can and might expect of yourself. Your external boundaries should be clear and known to your family, friends and colleagues. External boundaries can help you maintain a certain control over things, like what might other expect from you? And last but certainly not least, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Making mistakes is human. As a matter of fact, I dare say you can’t learn without making mistakes. So go ahead, make a mistake so you can learn from it and it won’t happen again.
Unlike what most people might think, stress can be managed rather well. That is, acute stress. This type of stress can be anticipated due to the factors in play. Are you having too much on your plate? Are your project deadlines closing in on you? Each of these should be a signal to you to slow down, prioritize and make a plan on how to tackle things heads on. The best way to remove stress out of your live, is to expect stress and prepare counter measures. Most project are planned far ahead, and If you are in the business long enough, you will know when things can go wrong. Perhaps you should make an internal deadline for your colleagues, so you and the external party involved, are better aligned, so a project runs more smooth. Also, it can help to let your colleagues know what is on your plate. As long as you don’t set boundaries, more work will come your way.
On average a business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate. On average modern workers are interrupted seven times per hour and distracted up to 2 hours a day. With these numbers in mind it seems almost impossible to maintain a steady focus throughout the day. Interruptions and ad hoc work can lead to stress. Luckily there are some proven strategies that can help you minimize stress and maintain focus. Here follow 5 proven ways to reduce stress:
We become more stressed when we feel that situations are out of our control. Focus on the aspects of your life that you can control and let go of the things you can’t. Overall you are in control of your actions and responses.
Scheduling your day on the afternoon or evening before can help a lot. In this way you minimize the choices you will have to make, you can start your day focussed. Also, you typically have a better sense of how full your day is. In this way you are less likely to take on extra work.
It should come as no surprise that saying no is often the best way to reduce stress. If you know how full your plate is, it becomes easier to oversee the things you need to do and the deadlines that are linked to hem. So saying no and focussing on your most important tasks is often the best way to reduce stress. Don’t take on extra “busy work” or other dull tasks that have a deadline.
The office is a social place, gossip at the coffee machine and small talk are part of what makes office life so interesting. However working in a crowded office does have a downside. There are plenty distractions, ranging from loud chatter, to phone calls to instant messages and colleagues who ask for your help. Once again, setting clear boundaries is key. Some interruptions are recurring and can be anticipated. Closing the door or working with headphones on should be a signal to your colleagues that you are busy. However, don’t assume interruptions will stop with a minor change. You should be honest and clear with regards to your time and your availability.
Setting priorities three times a day can help you reduce stress. If you know what is on your plate and you choose not to do X or Y, but instead focus on Z, this can be a great relief. Clarity is key here. Make a to-do list that focusses on the most important project and focus on these projects. When you have multiple deadlines closing in on you prioritizing becomes harder. So take a step back and be honest; which is, as of now, your most important project? Sometimes it is necessary to let go of other projects (i.e. by delegating). Don’t let yourself be swapmed by all manner of projects, focus on the ones that are most important for you and your business.
If you want to reduce stress and learn more about how to handle stress, download the free eBook “How To Become More Productive In Less Than 10 Minutes“.