These days nearly all professionals suffer from some form of stress, deadlines looming, people counting on you and generally putting yourself in a position of pressure. Stress is becoming a every day part of the roles of professionals so your success is not longer a case of wether you suffer from stress or not, it how do you deal with it when it comes. So how do you deal with Stress in todays ever changing and turbulent world.
1. Cut Yourself Some Slack
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, dwelling on your failures and weaknesses won’t solve the problem. You’re better off looking at your mistakes with compassion and remembering that everyone messes up now and then. Most of us believe we need to be hard on ourselves to perform at our best. But by giving yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them, you can actually reduce your stress and improve your performance.
2. See the Big Picture
As you’re facing your mountain of tasks, draw energy and motivation from the larger goals you’re striving for. By thinking about the greater purpose that each action supports, you’ll cast a whole new light on things that don’t seem important or inspiring on their own. Next time you’re slogging through e-mails at the end of a long day, don’t think of it as merely “digging myself out of my inbox.” View it as “wrapping up a critical project on schedule,” for example, or “showing decision makers how committed I am to meeting their goals.”
3. Rely on Routines
If I asked you to name the major causes of stress in your work life, you’d probably cite deadlines, time-sucking meetings, a heavy workload, bureaucracy, and maybe even a controlling boss. You might not think to say “making decisions,” because most of us aren’t aware of this powerful and pervasive cause of stress in our lives. Yet every time you make a decision—which candidate to hire, when to ask your supervisor for help, whether to delegate a task— you create mental tension that is, in fact, stressful.
So use routines to reduce the number of decisions you need to make. U.S. President Barack Obama, who has one of the most stressful jobs imaginable, takes this approach. Here’s what he told Vanity Fair (October 2012) about it:
You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.
If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day. Establish a ritual for preparing for work in the morning, for example: Perhaps you can check e-mails and voice mails and respond to the urgent ones first thing, which clears the decks and makes it easier to move more quickly to important projects. Set up a similar routine for packing up to go home at night. Once you’ve put less-important decisions on autopilot, they’ll stop weighing on you—and you’ll free up your energy for things that matter more.
4. Do Something Interesting
Interest in an activity doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue—it actually replenishes your energy for whatever you’ll do next.
In a study, researchers found that interest resulted in better performance on a subsequent task as well. In other words, you won’t just do a better job on Task A because you find Task A interesting—you’ll do a better job on follow-up Task B because you found Task A interesting. The replenished energy flows into whatever you do next. So make time during your day for projects that fascinate you, for brainstorming, and for reading about exciting innovations in your field. All that will help you power through your less-interesting but necessary tasks. Also, remember that interesting doesn’t merely mean pleasant, fun, or relaxing.
5. Add When and Where to Your To-Do List
Does a whole day (or even a week) often go by before you check a single item off your lengthy to-do list? Stressful, isn’t it?
To get things done in a timely manner, add a specific when and where to each task on your list. If-then planning can help you fill in those blanks. For example, “Call Bob” becomes “If it’s Tuesday after lunch [when], then I’ll call Bob from my desk [where].” Now that you’ve created an if-then plan for calling Bob, your unconscious brain will start scanning the environment, searching for the conditions in the if part of your plan. This enables you to seize the critical moment and make the call, even when you’re busy doing other things. You’ve already done the hard work of deciding what to do; now you can execute the plan without consciously thinking about it.
6. Articulate Your Desired Response
When we’re stressed, it can feel as if the universe is conspiring against us. It’s easy to get trapped in a negative spiral, ruminating on everything that’s going wrong--essentially paralysing ourselves. Perfectionism can similarly trap us. We keep going into the weeds to fix “just one more thing.” Projects never get done because we’re endlessly fiddling with them.
How do you break the cycle when it’s your own mind playing tricks on you? Do some additional if-then planning, because it can help you do more than tackle your to-dos. According to research it also allows you to control emotional responses such as fear, sadness, fatigue, self-doubt, and even disgust.
Just think of the situations that provoke those reactions from you and decide how you would like to respond instead. Then make an if-then plan that links your desired response to the situations that tend to raise your blood pressure. For instance: “If I see lots of e-mails in my inbox when I log in, then I will take three deep breaths to stay calm and relaxed.” Whatever thoughts or actions work for you, make them a part of your if-then plan.
7. Focus on Improving,not Perfecting.
We all pursue our goals with one of two mind-sets: what I call the be-good approach, where you focus on proving that you already know what you’re doing, and the get-better approach, where you concentrate on developing your abilities and learning new skills. It’s the difference between wanting to show that you are smart and wanting to get smarter.
If you’re in be-good mode, expecting to do everything perfectly right out of the gate, you may constantly (often unconsciously) compare yourself with others to see how you size up. And when things don’t go smoothly, you’ll quickly start to doubt the abilities you’re desperately trying to prove, which creates more stress and anxiety. Ironically, worrying about your ability makes you much more likely to fail.
A get-better mind-set, by contrast, leads to self-comparison:
You measure how well you’re doing today against how you did yesterday, last month, or last year. When you catch yourself comparing your performance with others’ or being too self-critical, shift your perspective by asking yourself “Am I improving?” (and “If I’m not, what can I do to change that?”). You’ll experience far less stress—and it will be easier to stay motivated, despite any setbacks.
8. Appreciate the Progress That you’ve Already Made
Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. Small wins that keep us going—particularly in the face of stressors.
So it’s enormously helpful to reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far before turning your attention to the challenges that remain ahead. If you’re stressed by a complex yearlong project six months in, take a moment to list what’s been done since day 1. Remember the difficulties you’ve already encountered and how you dealt with them. Then, with a sense of well-earned confidence, think about how far you have left to go and keep your eyes on the prize.
9. Know What Motivates You
Without realising it, we can add stress to our work lives by managing it in ways that don’t mesh with our own motivational styles. Figuring out what drives you will help you rein in your stress.
If it’s optimism, you have what psychologists call a promotion focus : You think of your job as rife with opportunities for achievement. You’re driven by the belief that everything will work out if you apply yourself. You probably also:
• Work quickly
• Brainstorm lots of alternatives to consider
• Plan for best-case scenarios
• Seek positive feedback (and lose steam without it)
• Feel dejected when things go wrong
The best way to cope with your stress is to maintain forward momentum. Motivation feels like eagerness to you—it runs on positivity. If you’re feeling stuck, shift to another project and make some progress there before returning to the original obstacle. Also, since you’re someone who needs to stay optimistic to be truly effective, reflect on some of your past triumphs to keep your chin up.
By contrast, if you have a prevention focus, you’re motivated by security—and hanging on to what you’ve worked so hard for. You tend to:
• Work deliberately, with a high degree of accuracy
• Prepare yourself for the worst
• Get stressed over short deadlines
• Stick to tried-and-true ways of doing things
• Feel uncomfortable with praise or optimism
• Get anxious when things go wrong
For you, managing stress at work largely means avoiding mishaps and fulfilling your responsibilities. It feels like vigilance, and it’s sustained by a kind of defensive pessimism--the need to keep danger at bay. In fact, it feels downright wrong to “stay positive” when you’re under stress. You actually work best when you think about what might go awry and what you can do to keep that from happening (or how you’ll respond if it happens, anyway). When you’re dealing with potential budget cuts, for example, you cope most effectively by preempting the problem—figuring out where you can trim some of the fat, just in case. To others, this might seem like wallowing in negativity and making your life needlessly stressful (after all, the budget cuts might not happen), but you’re actually alleviating stress by considering all possible scenarios and solutions and planning accordingly. You’re working to minimize your losses. We all take different views (promotion versus prevention) at different times, depending on which challenges we’re facing. But most of us have a dominant motivational style. Identify yours, and then embrace either the sunny outlook or the hearty skepticism that will reduce your stress and keep you performing at your best.
Here’s the main thing to remember as you read: When it comes to stress, you are far from powerless. You may not be able to remove the stressors from your life, but you can take control of how they affect you. Stress doesn’t have to interfere with your productivity, your health, and your happiness. You can even learn to harness its power for good by viewing stress-inducing challenges as opportunities to become more skilled and resilient.