How to Keep Stress Under Control During These Trying Times

By Lisa Haisha

Read or listen to any news report these days and you’re sure to get negative information: workers being downsized, employees being forced to take pay cuts, big companies seeking bailout money, and yet another business closing its doors. With so much negativity dominating the nightly news reports, it’s no wonder so many people are so stressed at work.

Unfortunately, stress does much more than weigh heavy on people’s minds. It also contributes to lower productivity, increased sickness and a negative mindset that keeps the spiral going out of control. And if any company is to survive this economy and see it through to the other side, they need employees who can effectively deal with stress and keep it from affecting their daily performance.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who feels overly stressed and that your work life is out of control (and consequently hurting your personal life), rest assured that you can regain control of your life and minimize the stress you feel. The following strategies will help.

Focus on your vision rather than your to-do list: A vision is something that takes you on a journey and keeps you pumped up. A to-do list is something that overwhelms you and causes friction in your life. Think about it … how many times have you created a to-do list, only to not complete your outlined tasks? Afterward, you probably felt like a failure and beat yourself up for being so lazy, dumb, irresponsible… (you fill in the blank).

The vision you create should be for yourself personally in terms of who you want to be in the company or what you want to contribute. Once you’re clear on that, you can focus on the outcomes of your activities, and not on the individual tasks themselves. In other words, your vision will keep you from focusing on the drudgery of to-do tasks and give you a constant reminder of what you ultimately want to achieve.

For example, if your vision is to win the company’s top salesperson award, you would focus on that image or ultimate pay-off rather than all the minutia of things you must do to attain that award, such as all the cold calls, prospect meetings, paperwork, etc. Without that clear vision in mind, the daily grind will stress you out and cause you to lose focus. So while you still have tasks to do and even to-do lists, you don’t let the small steps dominate your thinking. By focusing on your ultimate objective, you’ll stay motivated to take the action required to reach your goal.

Create a weekly and monthly calendar: While the idea of keeping a weekly and monthly calendar can at first seem overwhelming, it’s actually an ideal way to organize your time so you can keep your priorities straight and lower your stress level. Here’s how it works: Before a new month starts, decide what your focus will be for the coming month. Perhaps your focus will be to complete a big project at work or to brand your company. This is your monthly vision.

Then, each Sunday evening write down what you want to accomplish that week that will lead you to your monthly goal. Block time for those activities in your weekly calendar. These activities are your priority. In the timeslots with no activity scheduled, you can put all the other things you want to do for the week, such as other work tasks, meetings, etc.

Finally, during your non-work hours, be sure to schedule things that bring joy to your life, such as exercise, spending time with your family, reading, relaxing with friends, etc. Now you’ve identified your main focus for the month, have broken down your main tasks into workable time chunks, and have allowed space for a personal life as well. Remember, personal time is vital, especially when you’re under stress. Even if you only have a few minutes for yourself, that time will restore your energy and keep you motivated. So don’t neglect it.

Say “no” to the things that weigh you down: During tough economic times, many people are afraid to say “no” at work. They believe that if they refuse to stay late, take on more work, or do a special project then their boss will fire them. While you always have to decide what’s best for your personal situation, in most cases when you say “no” to the things that don’t feel right and that take away from your wellbeing, you make yourself more effective in the areas or core strengths that really matter.

For example, if you say “yes” to every special request your boss or co-workers ask of you, eventually you’ll be so overworked that you won’t be able to do anything well. All your work will be mediocre at best, which will reflect negatively on your performance. However, if you say “no” in a way that illustrates why saying “no” is the best option, then you’ll have the inner strength to do key tasks well … and that positively impacts the company’s bottom line.

So when your boss asks you to take on another project to your already full plate, you could say, “I don’t think that me taking this on would be in the company’s best interest. My plate is full, and if I stretch myself too thin, all my work will suffer. Let’s see who else may have the resources to take this on.”

This same concept also applies to the people in your personal life. When you’re stressed out, you need to be able to tell your loved ones and friends “no.” Realize that people will always try to pull your time away from you with requests such as “Can you baby sit my kids for the evening?” “Will you drive me to the airport?” “Can I borrow $100?” If you say “yes” simply because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, you’ll only end up adding to your stress level. So say “yes” when you really want to help someone, but say “no” when the request will put an extra burden on you.

You Can Take Control of the Stressors in Your Life: Stress is an inevitable part of daily life. And while no one will ever be able to completely eliminate stress from their lives, you can take steps to minimize the stress you feel so it doesn’t negatively impact your performance. So don’t let the realities of the country’s economy get you down. Instead, use this time to get clear on what you want and to take the steps to make that vision a reality. Before you know it, you’ll love what you do, your stress level will decrease, and you’ll be a top performer who gets the respect and recognition you deserve.

Read other articles and learn more about Lisa Haisha.

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