Everyone has experienced at least one frazzled day at work before, but the difference between those who crack under pressure versus those who coast to victory is how they react to it. Phones are ringing, clients are angry, and you're breaking out in stress hives — arg! But there are ways not to get stressed at work, even if it seems like the sky is falling down around your head. I'm not going to claim that it's easy, but with a few strategic moves, a few steadfast rules and shifts in perspective, each one of us — from the strong to the timid- can coast across the stressful patches in our careers. Angry emails, packed inboxes, missed deadlines, and all.
With these tips you can avoid the awkward fallout that usually happens when we react when cornered with stress. No more angry emails sent in knee-jerk reactions, or cringe-y apologies to snapping at friends and coworkers. You won't have to endure deep breathing exercises inside locked bathroom stalls or fanning your face to keep back the frustrated tears - we now have the tools to handle this like the bosses we are. So are you ready for it? Below are seven tips on how to handle stress at work.
1. Focus On The Things You Can Control
Think about what's stressing you out at work right now: Is it the way your boss is under-handing you? Are you working with a demanding client? Do you have too many big projects on your plate? To not let these situations take you under, focus on the parts that you can control and let go of those you can't. That way you'll feel like you have a handle on things and the whole situation isn't spiraling down the drain — with you in it.
Business writer Jenna Goudreau at Forbes wrote, "...identify the aspects of the situation you can control and aspects you can’t. Typically, you’re in control of your actions and responses, but not in control of macro forces or someone else’s tone, for example." Don't let yourself worry about what other people are doing or how they're treating you — rather, focus on how you react to that situation, and you'll be more in control.
2. Remind Yourself What You Love About Your Job
Sometimes your work day (or work week) will get a kink in it and you'll spend your nine to five super stressed and wishing you could just quit, run away to a beach, and drink your body weight in mai thais. During moments like those, take a break to remind yourself why you love your job in order to recenter your self. That way you won't make a mountain out of a molehill. Sure, things suck right now, but they haven't always been this way.
Lifestyle writer Laurie Erdman at self-development site Greatist explained, "Things will go wrong throughout our workday, or at least not according to plan. This is inevitable. We can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in our life." So make a list of what you really enjoy about your career and savor those facts — the storm will pass soon.
3. Create A Game Plan Of What Kind Of Worker You Want To Be
Do you want to be the frazzled one that breaks out into stress blotches every time something goes wrong? Do you want to be the worker that cracks under pressure every time she gets corrected or called out? What kind of preofessional do you want to be? In order to help control your stress, set yourself intentions on how you want to be seen in your profession, and try to live up to those expectations.
Lifestyle writer Charlotte Lieberman told Greatist, "Set an intention each day before leaving for work. Perhaps you wish to be more open-minded and at ease during meetings and conference calls, or you want to breathe more deeply before beginning a new task." Remind yourself of these intentions every time you feel yourself begin to spiral — it should help center you.
4. Don't Let Any Interruptions Through Until You're Ready
You know how you slap off the radio when you can't find a parking spot or address? This is the same idea. If you're feeling a pocket of stress at work, close off any and all interruptions until you center yourself and get a handle on things.
Goudreau offered, "Emails, phone calls, pop ins, instant messages and sudden, urgent deadlines conspire to make today’s workers more distracted than ever. While you may not have control over the interrupters, you can control your response." So shut down the email, turn off your phone, close your office door and work without interruptions until you feel like you have a grip on things again.
5. Say No — As Many Times As You Need To
Whether it's to get cocktails after work or to accept another little side project, if you're feeling stressed and over-worked, practice saying the word "no." You'll be grateful you did.
Erdamn advised, "You can be polite but firm: Explain to others that you are overcommitted and that you must say no. And yes, you can even tell your boss 'no'; just explain that one more project will mean the quality of your work will drop. Negotiate priorities." Your boss won't sack you if you have too much already listed on your schedule, and you'll feel so much better crashing on your couch and unwinding rather than going to a happy hour just to be nice. You don't need to do it all — especially when you're feeling over burdened.
6. See This As A Learning Opportunity About Yourself
Sure you think you're awesome when you're at your best, but what can you learn about yourself when you're tested? Instead of cracking under the pressure, see this stressful time at work as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself: Specifically, how you fair when times get a little tricky.
Lieberman advised, "If you find yourself bored or annoyed at work, don’t judge yourself. Instead, use the setback to shift your mindset: Even the most tedious work is an opportunity to help others, cultivate awareness, or learn about yourself."
Shift your mentality: Instead of this stressful time being tedious, it's just another chance to learn something new about yourself, learn about your profession, or help someone out.
7. If The Situation Is Spiraling, Ask These Questions To Find A Solution
If you can't break out of this frazzled type of situation, it's time to tackle it with a solution. Rather than going into a knee-jerk reaction of lashing out or crumbling, ask yourself a couple of questions to center yourself before deciding which way to go.
Associate editor Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. from the Psych Central suggested, "Ask yourself these three questions: What has worked in the past? What would someone I admire do? What would someone objective do?" Once you have the answer to all three, you can choose the one that feels the most right.
Having these tips in your arsenal, the next time your work day launches into a Code Red, you could come out of it feeling cool and in control. Good luck!