4 Practical Steps on How Lagos-Based Professionals can Improve Productivity and Manage Workplace Stress
By definition, Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. You can experience stress from your environment – for example, from commuting to and fro your workplace (in the famous Lagos traffic). Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or the birth of a child can produce stress.
Good self-management is the backbone of any successful individual and stress management is about taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.
How do I begin my Workplace Stress Management journey?
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your work, environment and life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious and it is all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Sure, you may know that you are constantly worried about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that leads to deadline stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your work habits, attitude, and excuses: Ask yourself;
• Do I explain away work stress as temporary even though I don’t remember the last time I took a breather? (“I just have a million things going on right now”)
• Do I define stress as an integral part of my work or home life? (“Things are always crazy around here”)
• Do I blame my stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your work stress level will remain outside your control.
The 4 Steps of Workplace Stress Management
There are several strategies you can employ to manage your stress level at work. We have divided this strategy into 4 easy steps that you can adopt in your daily life.
Step 1: Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors at your workplace or in other life areas and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, write it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Endeavor to write down:
- What caused your work stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally.
- How you acted in response.
- What you did to make yourself feel better.
Step 2: Evaluate your current workplace stress coping strategies
Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress at work and in your life. Your stress journal can help you identify them. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem. These are called “unhealthy ways of coping with stress”. These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run. Examples of unhealthy stress coping strategies include:
- Drinking too much
- Overeating or under-eating
- Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Using pills or drugs to relax
- Sleeping too much
- Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
- Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)
Step 3: Learn and adopt healthier ways to manage work stress
If your methods of coping with stress are not contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with work stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of The Four A’s: Avoid, Alter, Adapt, or Accept.
Step 4: Deal with the stressors by practicing the Four A’s
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
You can deal with stressful situations by:
- Avoiding the stressor
- Altering the stressor
- Adapting to the stressor.
- Accepting the stressor.
Here are 13 healthy and practical ways you can adopt to handle stressors:
1. Avoid unnecessary stress – Not all work and life stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
2. Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you are close to reaching your limits. Taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress.
3. Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life or at your workplace and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.
4. Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic gets you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.
5. Avoid hot-button topics – If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.
6. Cut down your to-do list – Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary, to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
7. Alter the situation – If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things, so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
8. Express your feelings instead of bottling them up – If something or someone is bothering you at your workplace, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build, and the situation will likely remain the same.
9. Be willing to compromise – When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
10. Manage your time better – Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself; you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.
11. Focus on the positive – When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
12. Some sources of stress are unavoidable – You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you cannot change.
13. Adopt Healthy ways to relax and recharge – Examples of healthy ways to relax and recharge include
- Going for a walk.
- Spending time in nature.
- Calling a good friend.
- Sweating out tension with a good workout.
- Writing in your journal.
- Taking a long bath.
- Lighting scented candles
- Savoring a warm cup of coffee or tea.
- Playing with a pet.
- Working in your garden.
- Getting a massage.
- Curling up with a good book.
- Listening to music.
- Watching comedy shows
Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Remember, nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury so you must endeavor to set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.