Last week, we saw that while stress is a normal occurrence, high and continuous levels of stress can be psychologically and physically harmful. The first step to help deal with stress is to understand the internal and external sources of stress. Whether stress is internal – your own reaction in anticipation of a problem – or external – from a poisonous work environment or an excessive work load, it is important to find ways to handle stress.
But understanding how stress works will only get you so far. You need cathartic relief, right?
Step 2: Release Stress.
Sometimes you just need to get it off your chest. But be careful. While you should not hesitate to seek empathetic ears, choose your confidant wisely. Vent… but find the right listener. Blow off steam without damaging your work reputation. Think carefully before you choose to vent to a colleague. The more you say to a person you work with, the more likely something will slip out at work. And you don’t want co-workers using your misery to their advantage. Find someone with a sterling reputation whom you know and trust.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, in some cases your boss may be your best confidant. Sure, you don’t want to make much ado about the minor, daily stresses of your job, but if you’re struggling with something major that affects your performance, you may want to talk to your boss. After all, managers are invested in the success of their employees. A brief explanation (keep the unpleasant details to a minimum) is not only fair, it’s also a way to build trust.
One district manager at a financial services company recently survived a round of layoffs. Still reeling from the stress of nearly losing his own job, he faced the task of cutting 30 percent of his own employees, many of whom he had worked with many years. He asked his former and current bosses for advice because both of them had been through the same experience. The two empathized but, more importantly, offered some concrete tips on how to make the cuts and give employees the support they need. The conversations didn’t make the task any easier, but they did help the manager cope with his own internal struggles.
If you’re going to talk (vent) to your boss, schedule a time to talk instead of dropping by unexpectedly when he might be in the middle of grappling with the demands of his own job. Regardless of whom you talk to, vent once, then let the issue rest. Constantly rehashing the story will force you to relive your emotions, and could cause your boss or colleague to start avoiding you.
Don’t want to vent? There are a number of other ways to release stress.
* Relieve some tension and clear your head by doing something physical. Wear yourself out on the treadmill. Go on a strenuous hike. Do laps in the swimming pool. Go dancing. Take a kick-boxing class at the gym…. do whatever you need to do. The activity will get your endorphins pumping (the brain chemicals that make us feel good) and focus your mind on your body instead of your stress.
* Want to ease some tension? Go to a funny movie on a weeknight, and then indulge in some deep guffaws. It will help you break from the weekday grind. And laughter also generates those ‘feel-good’ endorphins.
* Do some volunteer work. There is nothing that is more likely to get your mind off your own stress than working with someone who is less fortunate. Find a cause you feel is worthwhile and spend some time there. Helping others will also make you feel better about yourself and help you put things in perspective.
Next week, we will examine ways to take control of stress and change how you react to it.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”
Thomas Paine, US patriot & political philosopher (1737 – 1809)
© 2009 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.