6 Tools for Dealing with Work Stress

Work stress is inevitable. Everyone’s got some of it. But few really know how to deal with it in a way that is effective for them. Stress creeps up on some people over time, when life gets in the way and other responsibilities take precedent. Bills, kids, day-to-day tasks, calendars and just getting a little bit of downtime are what most people focus on, because that’s what’s in plain sight. Stress, on the other hand, kind of builds and lurks, like a silent force. After a while of stress mismanagement, it usually can start to appear in mood, health, time management or overall well being.

Looking at 6 ways to deal with work stress, let’s come up with some practical strategies that you can use today.

1. Identify the sources of stress: if you don’t know where your stress comes from, you’re in the dark. Start to become aware of what things or people stress you the most. Are there negative personalities at work the stress you? Is the workload itself a stressor for you? Or, have you been waiting for a bonus or raise for some time, causing financial stress on you? For a lot of men I talk with, distress is so generalized and nonspecific, and they don’t know how to pinpoint causes of it. Knowing what stresses you is the first step to doing something about it.

2. Get organized: if you tend to be on the messy side, or have a disorganized schedule, you may be scooping more stressing here life inadvertently. Sometimes, the creative types work best in a chaotic or disorganized workspace. I like to have my desk organized, my calendar organized, and my schedule to do tasks for the week organized, and at arms length so I can access them quickly. I use digital timers, like Pomodoro, to meter out the time that I spend on tasks. I digitize everything, as best as I can. So, why add further stress to yourself? Try committing to reducing or controlling the stress that you can, because they’ll certainly be external stressors that you can’t control.

3. Stop feeding “energy vampires”: you know, these are the personality types that suck the energy and life blood from you. The people that you want to stay away from. These are the people who are constantly unhappy or negative, always complaining, or always want to talk about themselves. The better you get at identifying the negative personality types that trigger stress in you, the better you’ll be at avoiding them. Make a commitment to do this for yourself, and you’ll be happier for it. Don’t give people the power to “suck your blood,” if you know what I mean.

4. Stay positive: now, I don’t usually suggest to people to stay positive. In fact, I like to encourage people to work on their negativity instead of just optimizing things and avoiding their upset mood. There are plenty of ways to keep positive, including developing a regular exercise or workout routine, getting the right amount of sleep each night, working at improving your energy without the use of stimulants or other substances, and hanging around with people who are generally positive. If you’re attracting negative people, you may want to look at how you do that. Try being around people who boost your mood. Create a positive workspace for yourself, and populated with things that you love or that bring you happiness. Take short walks on your break, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, to get your blood going and make up your mood. Deal with the conflicts that come up at the workplace, so that they don’t go unattended to.

5. Ask yourself if what you’re doing for work is making you happy: part of the work stress may be that you don’t like what you do. For a lot of people, they really hate going to their jobs, so, if this describes you, what keeps you coming back to something that doesn’t make you happy? Are you able to make a job change, or even a career change, to improve your happiness and reduce your stress? There are probably a lot of implications at stake with these questions, considering that you may have children, financial commitments, expectations from others or family, or are just afraid to actualize your work dreams. Whatever the case may be, if it’s not making you happy, then work is too hard.

6. Figure out how you get validated or affirmed by your work: if you like me, you need praise and validation from people, whether it’s your wife, your boss, or others. Do you feel like you get the recognition that you need? Are you too shy to ask for it? For a lot of men, they need to know that they’re doing a good job, because work is such a strong part of our identity as men. But, stress comes when we’re not getting what we need, and if we need validation or approval from someone about the work that we do, it’s okay to need that and to ask for it. Why wait for your annual evaluation? You may be able to get more feedback from those you need it from on the  job, as well as more constructive criticism, if you just ask.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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