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Stress gets a bad rap. Sure, too much of it can have seriously negative mental, physical, and emotional effects, but stress isn’t all bad. It’s what motivates you to finish a project, meet a deadline, and perform at a level even you didn’t know you were capable of. Of course, in uncertain economic times, workplace stress can quickly spiral out of control, especially if you’re a small business owner and feel a sense of responsibility towards your employees. Workplace stress can even affect life expectancy. But it truly is possible to keep a clear head. After all, people praise grace under fire, not freakouts under fire. Here’s how to keep it together in stressful situations:
Try to stay positive.
If someone tells you to look on the bright side when you’re stressed, you might be tempted to respond with some less-than-friendly advice of your own. But there’s actually research (from Harvard, no less) that backs up the effectiveness of this strategy.
“When you feel anxious, you’re ruminating too much and focusing on potential threats,” Alison Wood Brooks said in a Harvard Business School study she authored. “In those circumstances, people should try to focus on the potential opportunities. It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don’t believe it at first, saying ‘I’m excited’ out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For some, seeking assistance can feel like a sign of weakness. But when it comes to the workplace, asking for help is also known as collaborating, which is a positive thing. When you’re working as a team, you’re sharing responsibility — and the stress. Plus, seeking input and partnering with others often yields better ideas and a stronger final product.
Take a break.
When you have a full (or overflowing) plate at work, it can be difficult to justify taking a coffee break, much less a vacation. But the experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend taking some time for yourself to regain perspective. Stepping away, even for a few minutes, allows you to take a breath and relax. If you can’t go on vacation immediately, start planning one. Taking time off is incredibly restorative, and just having a trip to look forward to will put you in a better frame of mind.
Identify the cause of your stress.
Maybe you’ve tried to manage workplace pressure by participating in a company-sponsored wellness program. But if you’re putting in the work and you’re still stressed, you’re not alone.
“Wellness programs are great at doing what they’re designed to do,” Joel Goh, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of a study on workplace stress, told the Boston Globe. “But they’re targeting [employee behavior], not targeting the cause of stress.”
If you don’t already know what sets you off at work, try to identify those triggers, and how to change or avoid them. If you believe that reducing stress in your current workplace is impossible, then maybe it’s time to start considering other options.
Believe in yourself.
If you lose faith in yourself (or you never had it to begin with), you’re doomed to a future of constantly second guessing yourself and unlimited amounts of stress and anxiety. However, if you believe in yourself, you’ll have the confidence to make decisions and stand behind them, which will help you stay calm and productive under pressure.