If your workday has been derailed, and you’re feeling stressed enough to stand on your desk and shout, “Make it STOP!” you might be overwhelmed at work. You’re not alone. More and more American workers find their jobs overwhelmingly stressful.
A report by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, reveals some startling statistics citing a study by Northwestern National Life that found one-fourth of workers surveyed view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. NIOSH also mentioned Princeton Survey Research Associates study that discovered three out of four employees believe that today’s worker has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago. Most of us agree that workplace stress is getting worse.
Read the NIOSH report here.
When we’re overwhelmed at work what can we do?
There are two areas to address. First, look to see if there’s a need for organizational changes. These are things that employees can’t control and need management’s help to change. It’s important to note that organizational changes can’t be “controlled” by an employee, but they can be “influenced.” For example, is there a process or system in place that needs fine-tuning? Is the lighting inadequate? Is the computer system antiquated? Employees can bring these concerns to management and ask for specific help. Subtle changes and improvements can eliminate a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety. The key to getting organizational change rolling is for employees to help management see the benefit in making the changes. So, although employees can’t control the situation, they can influence it.
The second area of focus is to enhance personal stress management techniques; skills that every employee can master. For those days when you hit maximum capacity, and you feel like your workday is a train wreck, try one of these five-minute strategies for personal stress reduction.
Five-minute ideas for getting back on track when your workday’s been derailed
1. Take A Vacation
Just pack up and go. Go for a five minute walk around the building, or walk to the restroom, or the mailroom, or any neutral location that removes you from the train wreck in your office. Limit yourself to just five minutes, then get right back to work. Use your five minutes away as a mini-vacation. Come back feeling slightly refreshed with a new perspective.
2. Clean Up the Environment
When you want to scream take a look at your work area. Is it a mess? Visual clutter on our desk or in our office adds tension. Stand up and straighten things up. Set your timer for five minutes and try to toss out unnecessary paper on your desk or stack annoying projects out of view. After five minutes of straightening up, dive back into your terrible tasks. Your ability to focus will be improved when you clean up your environment.
3. Tell Them Where To Go
If unnecessary interruptions from annoying people is the problem tell them where to go! Actually, tell your co-workers where they can go to get the information or help they need. Or, tell them when they can come back to you. Now is not a good time. Learn to be assertive and say, “I’m working under a tight deadline right now and I’ll have to meet with you later.” Or try something like this, “I’m buried in a project right now and I can’t stop. If you need immediate help Mary Smith can help you.” If possible, close your door, or forward your calls to voicemail. Provide a message or a sign on the door announcing that you are temporarily unavailable.
4. Dream A Little Dream of Me
When I feel the weight of my workload caving in on me I take a minute to daydream. Sometimes, you have to find a place to hide so that you can be alone for a minute or two. Once alone, I close my eyes and visualize all of the frustrating things that are piling up on top of me. I see myself balancing all of the junk and stuff and people on my back and I accept the weight of the workload. Then, in my daydream, I muster up my last bit of strength and heave the whole workload off my shoulders and down into a pile below me. I stand firmly on top of the mound of work, look down at it and imagine that I am now the King of the Hill and they will march to my orders. My new perspective allows me to reprioritize my projects and put them in the right place. Instead of living through a workday nightmare I dream a little dream of me in charge and give myself an attitude adjustment.
5. Plan A Party
Sometimes, we need to know what the reward will be. I’ll tolerate a lot of pain and suffering if I know there’s a reward in sight. It’s like labor and delivery. Those labor pains are awful, but mother’s go through it because there’s a beautiful little baby at the end of the pain. My mother did it four times. When I have labor pains and my workday is bursting apart at the seams, I take two minutes to plan my party. How will I celebrate the survival of this day? How will I reward myself for getting though it with a professional, positive attitude? Plan a simple “personal party” for yourself and keep your eye on your reward. Maybe I’ll indulge in a pumpkin spice latte on the way home? Or, maybe I’ll get a new pair of shoes this weekend? Often, my party is simply completing the project and doing “the happy dance” in the privacy of my own office. When I’m victorious over a huge, stressful project, I call my good friend and ask her to do the happy dance for me. We close our office doors, do the silly happy dance for each other, and then, we’re back to work. (Trust me, the happy dance really is silly, but it works.)
When your workday’s been derailed and you need to get back on track try one of these five-minute ideas. There’s a real benefit to every little thing you do to combat workplace stress.The Gallup Management Journal reports, “Workplace stress apparently can be linked to heart disease — the number-one cause of death in Americans over 35.” That statistic is good motivation for making subtle changes. Even the little things matter. Try one of the ideas, and leave a comment below to let me know you tried it. I’ll do the happy dance for you.
Gallup Management Journal
Gina Covell Maddox is a professional speaker and author of “The Working Woman’s Rant & Rave Guidebook: Audacious Advice for Handling Everyday Workplace Challenges That Make You Want to Scream.”