Here are some handy tips on how you can handle stress both at home and in the workplace — and how you can harness it to your advantage.
It’s an unfortunate and inconvenient truth: Stress is unavoidable, part and parcel of everyday life. The constant demands and pressure from one’s family, friends, and co-workers — including people who are related to what you do for a living — can definitely take its toll on anyone. Even people who claim to have what it takes to handle stress must have experienced burnout — both in his or her personal and professional life — at one point or another in his or her life.
Certainly, there are plenty of quick fixes to help one de-stress (e.g. a spa massage, a trip to get away from it all, a walk to clear your thoughts, etc.), but these are merely placebos — they don’t really help one deal with and face stress head-on, much less enable one to handle stress properly.
Furthermore, one must keep in mind that stress is not necessarily a bad thing per se. There IS such a thing as optimum stress — the kind of stress that helps you be more productive and in control. That’s why it’s important to know and understand how to handle stress, so you can wield it in your favor.
Below are helpful suggestions and key principles and tools that can aide you to cope with and handle stress at home and in the workplace.
How To Handle Stress At Home
1. Acknowledge your emotions
The more you deny that you’re upset, the more stressed out you get. By simply admitting that you’re stressed, you are already acknowledging the problem — and therefore have taken the first important step to handle stress.
2. Treat your home as it’s meant to be: a home
As much as possible, don’t bring your work home. Your home is your very own private sanctum, a place where you can relax and get away from the chaos of the real world (or the office, at the very least). Much of life’s stress stems from work — do you want to bring that source of stress into your personal haven?
With today’s technology that makes multitasking the norm rather than the exception, make it a point to dichotomize your personal and professional life and draw boundaries between work and home.
Most people nowadays have two phones — one for official use, and one with their personal number.
Turn off your “work” phone when you’re at home.
Or take a cue from my old schoolmate Alice, who has a cut-off time for work-related phone calls at home: By 10 p.m. at the very latest, she refuses to accept work-related calls.
If you happen to work from home, create that boundary by having a separate home office. Don’t blur the lines by working wherever you feel like it — your home office should be the only area devoted work. Once you’ve established this, you will definitely be able to handle stress better!
3. Talk it out with a cool head
When tensions run high and tempers ignite, it’s best to walk away and let the situation diffuse first before coming back to discuss things over.
My friend Sharon and her husband, Dan, have an agreement that goes way back to when they were still dating: If they get into an argument, or if a fight is brewing, they take time off from each other and get together to talk only when their tempers have cooled down. “It’s very helpful in making our relationship work,” says Sharon of this tactic. “We’ve both learned to lower our pride. Sometimes it’s me who does the initial ‘approaching,’ and sometimes it’s Dan. We’ve also promised each other not to count who does the initial approach more, ‘cause that will only lead to another fight.” Adds Dan, “And really, keeping track is a lost cause. It’s useless and not healthy for any relationship.”
4. Start your day right
Before your day truly starts, allow some quiet time for yourself. Use it to pray, to meditate, to scribble in your journal, to go for a run or a walk — any solitary activity that can help prep you for the day ahead, busy or not. That quiet time is vital to mentally, psychologically, emotionally (and even spiritually) condition you to get through the rest of the day.
5. Create a schedule for household chores
One of the major stress culprits is chaos. Eliminate squabbles and arguments about whose turn it is to do the dishes, set the table, throw out the trash, or fold the laundry by making a list.
Assign each family member a specific task for each day of the week, and post that list in a prominent area, say, in the kitchen, near the den, or in the hallway.
Indeed, sharing the responsibilities with someone else can certainly ease the burden (literally and figuratively) from your shoulders. And you can apply this rule not just to household chores, but also to making arrangements for family vacations (e.g. Who will do the booking of tickets and planning the itinerary?), doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, and so on.
6. Keep clutter at bay
Coming home to a messy abode can only increase your stress, so make an effort to keep things organized at home. If you live with someone, get him or her to pitch in.
If you live alone like my neighbor Laura, for instance, you can allot an hour or two of your weekend to straightening things up at home. No matter how lazy you are to clean up, you’ll find yourself becoming less stressed as you de-clutter, as Laura claims. “I’m in investment banking, which requires me to think and analyze practically all the time. But when I’m de-cluttering at home, I work with my hands, and my brain ceases to ‘function’ in that way. It’s very relaxing for me.”
7. Keep your “me” time sacred
If you have a family or are a parent, don’t deprive yourself of having a life outside of work and your family. Cultivate your hobby and don’t feel guilty about it! You need to know who you are aside from being a parent and a spouse, and your hobby — also known as “me” time — is crucial in reminding you of who you are once the other “roles” have been stripped away. You can also look at it from another angle:
If you devote all your time to your family and don’t have enough for yourself, you will end up resenting your family, and therefore, end up stressed as well.
How To Handle Stress In The Workplace
1. Say no to multitasking
Contrary to popular perception, doing multiple things at the same time is counter-productive. You might think that you’re being efficient by juggling a lot of things — for example, answering an email while also entertaining a call — but the reality is, when you multitask, you lose your concentration. And chances are, your output will be subpar or half-baked — which will then lead to you getting stressed because you’re not satisfied with the results. So, keep your focus and take on one task at a time.
2. Maintain an organized work desk
Your cubicle or workspace need not be spic ‘n’ span — Allan, an editor for a men’s magazine, calls the layout of his desk “his personal creative chaos.” To anyone else, his office looks like a complete mess, with magazines, clippings, and what-nots cluttering every available inch of space. But to Allan, the system works for him, because he knows where everything is.
The most important rule in keeping an “organized” work desk: having a layout that is functional for you.
As long as you know where everything is, you’ll be more efficient and productive. Make sure that the supplies and things you use often (for example, a notepad for your doodles, pens and pencils, reference books and materials, etc.) are within easy reach, so you need not hunt them down and waste time. File or stow away stuff that you don’t really need, such as old documents. If you’re not a pack rat, and if those documents aren’t really important, consider throwing them away to clear up space.
3. Take a step back to gain clarity
It’s a fact that at work, you will always have too many items in your to-do list. If your to-do list looks overwhelming, take a moment to scan through it — which ones need to be done ASAP, and which ones can be done tomorrow or on a later date? By being objective and honest, you’re also realigning your priorities at work and protecting yourself from further stress.
Sometimes, though, you tend to get so mired with the daily grind that you feel you have no room to breathe, much less get the space and clarity to see the bigger picture. Seek the help of a colleague or your supervisor so he or she can help direct you to which tasks need immediate attention. Don’t be afraid that asking for help will make you look helpless or incompetent — as long as you don’t do it too often, you’ll be fine.
4. Accept and understand the fact that the only thing you can control is yourself and your part
A lot of people get stressed out because things spiral out of their control. It’s inherent in people to want to be in control of other people and situations all the time. But here’s the thing: The more you obsess about those things that you can’t control, the more stressed out you get.
So what does this mean?
Simply put, accept that you are not God.
To handle stress you have to learn to let go of things beyond your control, such as weather disturbances that affect business operations, illnesses that prevent key members of your staff from coming in to work, and the like. Even other people’s attitudes and behaviors are something you cannot control.
So the next time you find yourself caught in what you perceive to be a stressful situation due to these external (and therefore, uncontrollable by you) factors, remind yourself that you cannot do anything about them, but you can do something to improve yourself. In short, be proactive!
5. Look for solutions and don’t dwell on the problem
It’s inevitable — rarely a day goes by when work goes smoothly. More often than not, there’ll be a customer complaint to take care of, screw-ups with the suppliers, a malfunctioning problem with the equipment, and so on.
Whether these problems are minor or major, there is only one thing you can do to handle stress: Stop worrying! Fretting about the problem and being fixated with it not only makes you more stressed out; it’s also a waste of time and energy.
Instead, channel your efforts into finding a solution. Frazzled as you may be, surely you have it in you to take a breath (or two), and then figure out a way to tackle the problem. Don’t let self-doubt hinder you from finding a solution. Believe in yourself and your capabilities because really, you can do it!
6. Identify emotional vampires at work and steer clear of them
The workplace is teeming with these toxic individuals: demanding much, complaining incessantly, taking so much and giving so little, and treating others shabbily. Your gut is your subconscious speaking and is very rarely wrong — listen to it!
If your instincts scream that this co-worker whom you’ve just met has the potential to be an emotional vampire, heed the call to stay away and avoid that person as much as possible.
Work itself is already stressful; you don’t need the added complication of having to deal with toxic personalities.
7. Say “no” occasionally
You want to prove that you’re the girl or the guy who can do it all, so every time somebody approaches you for help, you say yes immediately. But guess what? If you’ve set yourself up to be the go-to person in the office, you’ll be more prone to stress.
Protect your sanity and handle stress at the workplace by not indulging your here-I-come-to-save-the-day Mighty Mouse complex. Don’t let people guilt you into saying yes; if you’re too nice, people might just take advantage of you. And think of it this way: If you want to do everything perfectly but already have too much on your plate, then how are you going to produce a stellar output if you don’t have the time and energy to do so? Again, remember: The best way to handle stress is to keep your priorities in check.