08/09/2014

By Bob Patchet, HR Expert and Author at Croner

Workplace stress may be caused by fear, pressure or chaos. We may be fearful of some task we have to undertake, such as making a presentation. However, this is normal; indeed a little stress helps you concentrate on the task.

Constant work pressure is more difficult to deal with. Say “no” if you really do not have the time; cut out unnecessary work, such as meetings that you can manage without, and do not overcommit yourself. If this does not work, speak to your boss. Of course, he or she will also be working under pressure and, although doubtless a most noble and caring person, is not primarily interested in your mental state or work-life balance. So write down what comprises your workload, showing clearly why it is impossible to manage successfully, e.g. by proving how long various tasks take. If none of this works, the only way to preserve your health is to leave.

Chaos means lack of order: how things really are or how you perceive them. So take control of your job and stop it controlling you. Be aware of all that needs to be done and develop a plan for dealing with it. When you have a moment go through your workload and note every outstanding task – regular and one-off jobs. When you have noted everything, mark each task as either “major”, “urgent” or “quick”, and then make a completely new list for each.

To make your system work, review the lists at the end of each working day, making sure to add any new tasks, and – hopefully – cross off some achievements. You can see what needs to be done, so plan your next day’s work accepting that you will have interruptions and unexpected demands. Don’t plan to fill your day but rather list those tasks that you really should be able to complete. If at the end of that following day you have time to spare, refer to your lists and, if you have the odd few minutes now and again, look to your quick list.

Doing this at the end of the day has two great benefits: first you will be able to relax knowing that you are in control, and second, you will give your subconscious mind the chance to work on the following day’s problems. This latter function is truly effective; next day you may find yourself moving quickly towards resolution of a problem that looked difficult when you first put it on your schedule.

So far the solutions for dealing with stress are external – dealing with your work environment. But you also need to look to the person inside yourself. Even if you have a largely sedentary job you need to be physically, mentally and emotionally fit. So try to get exercise, eat healthily and relax.

Stress is essential for dealing with sudden threats, but keep it in the emergency box and don’t let it interfere with everyday living.