Wright Foundation | December 17, 2015

Stress at Work:
Here’s How to Deal

We’ve talked before about the damaging effects of stress at work and the healthy ways and unhealthy ways we can choose to deal with it.

Healthy ways to deal with stress include: meditating, keeping yourself energized, organized, and on-task, giving yourself a break, and most importantly, fully engaging in the task at hand.

People often think that stress means you have too few hours in the day and too long a list to tackle. More often, stress comes because we’re distracted. We’re giving in to passive behavior. We feel it’s easier to just complain and ruminate on what’s bothering us, than to speak up and say something about it.

Just like our muscles, our social-emotional skills need to be flexed and exercised to get stronger and more efficient. When a muscle is tense and tight, it can’t ever fully relax. But when you’re engaging, stretching and using those muscles, they relax and become looser and more flexible.

We have to do the same thing to our social-emotional muscles. We need to fully engage. Stop holding back when things are bugging you—speak up and say something. Don’t participate in eye-rolling and bad attitudes, because that’s not going to make things any better. In fact, you’re going to end up more stressed out and more exhausted. Tasks will seem even more insurmountable.

How to Be Less Stressed in the Boardroom

What are some of our most stressful moments at work? Meetings. Interactions with our coworkers. Why is that? These should be some of our best opportunities to engage—to share our vision with management, and to get energized and pumped up for the next task.

Instead, what happens in meetings? We allow one or two people to get us off track. Someone starts complaining or someone’s annoying habits and traits start to get under our skin. Suddenly, we’re not even focused on the purpose and message of the meeting—or worse—management and those running the meeting have lost their focus.

It’s up to every one of us to engage and get things back on track. Speak up, and let your coworkers and mangers know you’d like to get the conversation back on track. Ask to revisit the desired outcome and the purpose of the meeting, and repeat the objectives as you understand them. Sometimes those actions alone can keep things from running off the rails and getting stressful.

The worst thing that could happen? Well, you could be fired…but I haven’t heard too many cases where someone was fired for trying to get a meeting back on track. (Would you really want to work for a company like that anyway?) Really though, we hold back because we don’t want people to think we’re being “pushy” or “a jerk,” or we’re just afraid of what people think of us. The question is: are you really being true to yourself by holding back? Are you being honest and holding on to your values and integrity?

It’s better to speak up and let others know when something is bothering you, than to just let it become a “bitch-fest” where everyone voices their complaints and gripes, and attacks one another. Take back the focus and you’ll bring out your natural leadership.

What To Do When You Lose Focus

When it comes to being productive, we can end up our own worst enemy. I’ve talked before about the importance of meditation and having downtime—those activities outside of work where you can fully recharge. To keep your focus on your to-do list and the task at hand, you need these head-clearing activities.

Other times, distractions (like the Internet, social media, and email) can creep into our day and destroy our focus. Rather than allowing these tools to make us more productive, we let them get in our way.

Try something new. When you’re ready to start your day, don’t even check your email. Tackle your biggest, hardest task first, and get it out of the way. Then, you can let yourself look at your email and do the things you need to do to invite others into your mind-space.

People who are the most productive tackle difficult things first. They don’t necessarily work harder, but they work smarter. They keep their focus, they take breaks to meditate, they have outlets, and they nourish their yearnings with personal time and activities important to them. They don’t go back and forth responding to twenty emails every morning before they tackle important stuff.

We all have the power to make our work less stressful. By fully engaging and staying focused on the task at hand, participating in meetings, and speaking up and sharing our vision with our coworkers, we can make work a place of accomplishment, where we feel good about what we’re doing and ourselves. We can achieve goals that make us feel more powerful, more in control, and more engaged. We can find opportunities to be successful. Stress is the opposite of success. Keep yourself highly-focused and you’ll leave work with a sense of fulfillment each day.

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Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user starsalive.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.