Under Pressure

Employees must learn to manage stress for success

When constant pressure doesn't allow a worker to relax, stress can take a toll in the workplace. Frustration and fatigue are the results of extreme challenges or demands, and the anxiety isn't limited to bosses and managers. Employees deal with pressure, too.

Tevis Gale, founder of Balance Integration, which helps companies balance stress and burnout, refers to stress as a global problem.
"We all want to do a great job," says Gale, "but the same drive can bring us to burnout."
Stress can trigger an unpleasant series of physical and emotional events that might include a dangerous increase in adrenaline. Peter Handal, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Dale Carnegie Training, says stress harms the immune system and lowers the body's resistance to disease.
Early signs of stress include headache, upset stomach, irritability, difficulty concentrating and low morale, according to www.helpguide.org.
Several factors play a role in creating a stressful environment. Excessive workloads, useless tasks, long hours with low pay or little breaks add to anxiety, according to www.helpguide.org. Uncertain tasks and conflicting demands create confusion. A workplace change such as fear of losing a job, little chance for promotion or frequent turnover also builds a stressful environment.

So how do you foster habits to avoid those uncomfortable situations?

Balance Integration suggests workers find a "center" and use the process of ready, center and go:
. Ready yourself for a meeting by putting aside judgments and preparing to be present physically, intellectually and emotionally. Don't daydream about other obligations; focus on the task at hand.
. Center yourself by pinpointing how you want to arrive at the meeting (powerful, peaceful, courageous). Clear other thoughts and worries from your mind.
. Go into the meeting and remain true to the characteristics you want to portray.
. Avoid the practice of multitasking. It is an unconscious habit that can be the first driver of stress, according to Gale. Try to tackle one project at a time in order to pay more attention to your tasks. Resist the urge to search the Internet while talking on the phone.
. Create a cushion time between obligations; it can act as a timeout.
. Take time to take care of yourself. "Getting away for a few minutes can turn productivity around," says Michaela Drapes, an editor at www.vault.com, who suggests going for a walk or getting a glass of water to clear your head.
. Stand up and move around to avoid tight muscles and sore joints - walking or stretching every 45 minutes helps the circulatory aspect of stress, according to Gale.
. Having a little personal time can reduce stress, say to Rod Kurtz, senior editor at www.inc.com. Set aside at least an hour to relax. If you can't take a long vacation, plan your downtime with fun activities.
. Remain engaged at work by helping to solve problems. Gale recommends taking on tasks and creating new ideas. Contributions to projects can decrease stress, while increasing engagement and work satisfaction. Communicate with co-workers. Share your frustrations and try to bring a little humor into a stressful situation, says Handal.
. Employers should offer help to workers suffering from anxiety and burnout. Handal provides some stress management methods:
. Develop the staff's professional skills so they can handle difficult situations.
. Train workers to do their jobs well, allowing them to have more confidence in their abilities.
. Avoid confusion and frustration by making sure employees understand their duties.
. Prepare employees for transition.
. Give a clear connection of a worker's job to the main objectives of the company.
. Maintain communication between the staff.
. Encourage breaks during the day and vacation time.
. Kurtz recommends exploring work/life balance options. Take the time to decide what is most significant. Find out if your company provides more flexible work options such as job-sharing, telecommuting or a compressed workweek.
"Positive job factors can play an important part in keeping stress in check," says Handal. "Having supportive co-workers, managing time effectively, being active in social groups and not taking work home with you are the most effective ways to minimize stress."

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