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How To Slash Work-Related Stress

Aug 17, 2007
Stress.

If you are new to management you probably haven't felt quite the same kind of stress that you do now!

Now you are responsible for and to a team of people. You must define goals for your team, organize their work, make sure they do it well, deal with conflicts between people, cope with change, handle crises... Oh, and still get home in time to be there for your family and all their concerns!

It's natural to feel pressure or stress. It comes from feeling responsible, from having control, and from the need to exert control. And it can be a great motivator. Stress makes you alert, determined and focused.

But if you feel overwhelmed, then there's too much stress. And far from feeling alert, determined and focused, you may become dazed, confused and erratic!

There are things you can do to alleviate any excessive stress you feel. The first is to identify its cause(s). There are real causes and perceived causes. (Since perception is reality, the impact -- feeling excessive stress -- is the same.)

A "real" cause might be too much work -- where you have taken on, or been given, too many tasks -- and you simply don't have the time or resources to do them all.

In this case, you have a few options: get some help, arrange for an extended deadline, or offload some of the work onto someone else. If none of that's possible, then your only option is to do what you can. If some things don't get done, then so be it. So why not relax and accept that fact?

Sure, you may not meet your or someone else's original expectations, but they were unrealistic in the first place, so don't worry about them! Seriously.

If you've entered a marathon, are you going to beat yourself up because you can't win it, or because you can't run it in under two, three or four hours? No, you're just going to do the best you can.

The same principle -- yes, the same principle -- applies to taking on any tasks or responsibilities that are literally beyond your capabilities. Just do the best you can and accept the outcome.

Of course, there are times you can get something done by working more than your usual number of hours, for example by working late, or on the weekend.

Occasionally putting in an extra effort is fine. Even admirable. But if the extra hours become your usual hours -- and you don't like it -- be careful. Others will come to expect you to always work this hard and you may find yourself on a treadmill that's increasingly difficult to get off. Plus, your life outside of work (family, friends, hobbies, interests, and so on) is likely to suffer.

In other cases, the reason for your stress is perceived. You may be seeing a problem as being much, much bigger than it really is. You may be looking at a challenge in its entirety instead of breaking it up into small chunks. You may be struck by fear of failure or success.

If the stress you feel is caused by fear, know this: whatever you are afraid of, it hasn't happened yet. True?

Why not put off the negative feelings you're experiencing until it actually occurs! (Which it probably won't).

And another thing -- if there's something you can do to prevent the thing you're afraid of from happening, then do it. If you can't do anything -- how are you helping the situation or yourself by feeling afraid?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not "anti-fear." On the contrary, fear is real and it can also be a great motivator. But it can also strangle you. Try to use fear to get you want, and lose fear that doesn't get what you want.

Another perceived source of stress derives from having unrealistic expectations about what you can control or accomplish.

Really, as a manager, you must learn to know the difference between what you can control and what you can't -- and then simply focus all your energies on what you can control!

I know -- developing the wisdom to know the difference isn't necessarily easy. But it is the key. And you are on your way. Just keep reading articles like this one, listening to genuine experts and advisors, and, more importantly, observing and applying what "works" in the real world.
About the Author
Anna Johnson is the author of the How To Manage People System, including her book, How To Manage People (Even If You're A Control Freak!). Get Anna's FREE 12-page report How To Be An Outstanding Manager - The 8 Vital Keys To Managing People Effectively
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