Keeping Stress under control

Stress is inevitable.  It happens at home as well as at work.  No matter how well things are going, there will always be some problems that come your way.  As a manager, you might find yourself trying to cope with staffing shortages, recent layoffs, too many errors, missing goals, newly added goals, turnover in senior administration, etc.  If you’re new to the job, you will have enough stress with learning the ropes let alone all of the other possible contributing factors. 


Stress cannot be avoided and you cannot always control what happens, but how you react to the situation can make all the difference in the world.  That’s the secret to keeping stress under control.  You need to know the cause of stress, how it affects you, and how to adapt.  Here are 12 ways to help adapt to stressful situations:


  1. Know your trigger points.  Think about the most common trigger points that get you stressed.  For example: 
  • Is it when you are going into a meeting?  If so, take the time to be well prepared so that you can have confidence when going into the meeting. 
  • Is it when you are not making your numbers?  If so, get with your top people and figure out how you are going to correct the situation. 
  • Is it because of poor employee attendance?  If so, let your staff (or just the offending employee) know that you recognize the problem and will be keeping a close eye on future attendance issues.
  • Is it when you lose focus on a particular project?  If so, change the scene for a while and focus on another project or task.  When you come back to the original project, you will have a renewed focus.
  • Is it when you have too much coffee or cola?  If so, only have one cup of coffee in the morning and one coffee or cola in the afternoon.  Caffeine can help trigger stress.

The point here is for you to figure out and recognize your hot spots so that you can take the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate the problem situation.  When you see it coming, quickly focus on a calming scene like relaxing at the beach or being with your family, and most importantly, stay cool.  Always deal with stressful situations in a calm, yet controlling matter.  Be professional and do not run away from the situation.  Play the part of a wise and calm leader, and never let them see you sweat.  Always give the impression that you have everything under control.  Losing your cool and control will only add to the stress that is already there.  When you’re under stress you will start panicking and talking too fast.  When you see stress coming your way, control the panic and slow down your talking.  This will instill calm to those around you.  If you’re not losing your head, they won’t either.


  1. Stop and take a deep breath.  A common response to stress is shallow breathing.  Breathing shallowly deprives the body of adequate oxygen and will prevent you from thinking clearly and functioning properly.  The next time you feel stressed, try these breathing techniques:
  • Take 2 or 3 deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Press the side of one nostril with your finger, breathe in slowly and deeply through the other open nostril, and hold it for a one second.  Release your finger and use a finger from your opposite hand to press the side of the opposite nostril and slowly let out all of the air through the previously closed nostril.  Now do it in reverse.  Do this exercise 2 times.
  • Your body will respond with reduced muscle tension, lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate.  These are very calming breathing exercises.


      1. Time management.  Using your time efficiently will reduce stress.  Set and prioritize your daily objectives.  Concentrate on what is important to you and set aside the less important issues.  There will be a more in-depth discussion regarding time management in the following section of this lesson.



      1. Reduce the stress by dissecting the issue.  Calmly break down the elements that are causing the stress into a couple of manageable parts.  Get some help from your team members or co-managers when needed.



      1. Take a break and take a walk.  Exercise plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress.  It can help to relax muscle tension and improve sleep.  When stress is at its peak, get up and move.  Take a walk around the parking lot, get a glass of water, or do some stretches at your desk.



      1. Laugh more often and lighten up.  The old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine,” is especially true regarding stress.  Laughter helps reduce stress by releasing endorphins into your body that can lower your blood pressure, stimulate your brain, release tight muscles, change your emotional outlook and thinking, and increase your oxygen intake.



      1. Make some Feng Shui type of changes in your office or cubical.  A few changes such as less lighting and adding plants can help keep you calmer.  Include items that can help your mind and alleviate stress like a favorite CD, picture, quote or poem.



      1. Keep a notepad and a pen by your side at all times.  This will allow you to jot down notes, appointments, and deadlines for work assignments.  Keeping notes of all expectations helps you plan more properly and stay more organized, which helps reduce stress.



      1. Take care of your health.  Try to get at least eight hours of good sleep every night.  Eat properly to provide your body with the essential nutrients for living a healthy life.  Exercise at least 20 minutes a day.  This is obviously good for your health and will also help you during stressful situations.



      1. Talk it out with your family or friends.  Talking to family or friends helps you to vent and relieve tension.  They may even come up with a solution to the problem that is causing you so much stress.  This also helps put things into perspective.  Sometimes just talking about the problem makes you realize it’s not that big of a problem after all.


      1. Find a hobby and do more fun things outside of work.  The more you relax outside of work, the more you will be able to adapt to the stressful situations inside of work.  Try to find time to relax with your family and friends.



      1. Keep a positive attitude.   A negative attitude can have a negative impact on accomplishing your goals.  Keeping a positive outlook can give you the energy and momentum you need to get through the workday.  Your positive attitude is contagious.  The same can be said for a negative attitude.  Don’t walk around with a frown, have a smile on your face.  When your staff sees you as a positive leader who has everything under control during a stressful situation, they will be instilled with confidence.  Focus on the positives of the big picture so that you can fix the smaller negative problems.  Also, try to stay away from any negative situations such as gossiping.


      By following these tips, you can lessen the amount of stress at work and improve your health.


      The good news for new managers is that what is considered stressful early in your career, will seem trivial once you have some experience under your belt.  All new managers get stressed out with their new job responsibilities, but it will get better.  Just remember to have confidence in your abilities.


      You also need to make sure your employees are not stressed.  By utilizing the structure and teamwork philosophies taught in lesson 3, your staff should be relatively stress free.  You should still keep an eye on your employees to make sure they are not stressed out too much.  The less stressed they are, the less stressed you will be.  If you see signs of bad attitudes, back stabbing, work areas in disarray, absenteeism, high attrition, a feeling of fear, and just an overall look of stress on their faces, hold a meeting with your staff as soon as possible and address the issues.  The two questions to ask are, “What’s wrong with the department,” and, “what can we do to fix it?”  Focus on the matter at hand and make sure you set the ground rules of no personal attacks.  Express that you all want the same thing, which is to work in a positive stress free atmosphere.  Listen to what everyone has to say, write down all of the points brought up, and don’t stop pursuing the issue until you have an answer to the problem.  Make sure you close the meeting on a positive note.


    The text of these materials, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storing in an informational retrieval system or otherwise, except for students own personal use. The author does specifically disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this course. 

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