How Not to Blow When You’re Stressed at Work

frustrateproject161-060We all have bad days at work.

Frustration and stress can creep up and snowball until the next thing you know, you feel like you have just had it and want to leave. You are no longer productive, only focusing on the negative things about your job. You may even start to complain to coworkers in hopes doing so will make you feel better, but that just drags them into your pit of despair. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but you get the point. Not only does complaining not help, it can make the situation worse.

Others may just bottle it all in and stress out internally. You know, let things fester.

As frustration happens to us all, I decided to see if I could find some productive ways to handle work frustration.

Why You’re Frustrated
I decided to start by seeing why we get frustrated in the first place. According to the blog “Work Frustrations and Stress,” the top frustrations people have at work are:

  1. Feeling like you’re wasting your time
  2. Feeling like the management and/or the leadership is poor
  3. Too many changes
  4. No clear goal
  5. Impossible goals and objectives
  6. Unfair workloads across the team
  7. Annoying boss/colleagues
  8. Rewards not matching your efforts
  9. Too much work

Preemptive Measures
So what are some helpful things you can do to minimize frustration?

  • Take care of yourself. To help reduce your overall stress level, make sure you get exercise, enough sleep, reduce sugar intake, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Find good relaxation teqniques and do them on a regular basis.
  • Work from a to-do list. Lists help you manage your time, keep up with what you need to do, and prioritize. Having a running list will give you peace of mind that you are not forgetting something that needs to be done.
  • Finish something if you can. Starting and stopping a lot makes the process longer and breaks your concentration. I have a hard time with this one, as I can be working on something,and an e-mail will come in. I will read it right away and then be carried off working on whatever the email was about. Cuts my productivity for sure.
  • Break large projects into stages that are easier to complete.
  • Don’t take on too much. Learn how to say “no.” Really. If you find it hard to say “no” outright, come up with some nice ways to put it, like “I would love to but my plate is full right now.” Know your limitations.
  • Improve your communication skills to help your relationships with management and coworkers.
  • Do down time. Being involved in work 24/7 is not healthy. Vacation or take time off to clear your head and unwind. Go out with friends for fun.
  • Go into work with a good, positive attitude.

Aggravating Factors
Now that you have done all of that, you should look for the triggers that cause you to feel frustration.

Keeping a stress journal will enable you to notice any patterns in your stress spikes. I recommend using a scale to note your stress level and what triggered it. Note the date, time, and event.

Ideally, come up with a plan to avoid stress triggers altogether. If you can’t do that (and who can every second of every day, right?), at least knowing what they are enables you to attempt to reduce the stress level in any given situation.

Write down the stress trigger and then think of many possible solutions. Decide on the top two solutions, and then write down pros and cons for each and decide if the solutions are possible. If so, come up with a plan for how and when and write that down. If you need help with this process, talk with a coworker or friend about it—especially one who might see things from a different perspective and have good solution suggestions for you.

A common stress inducer is an issue that you think can’t be changed, which likely makes you feel powerless. Identifying the trigger, looking at solutions, and coming up with a plan to help avoid the problem will help you feel empowered and may lower your stress level around the topic.

When That Doesn’t Work
Sometimes stress and frustration will just get to you. When they do, here are some tips on managing them:

  • When you feel a stress spike, breathe deeply and count. Square breathing works well for me. Breathe in slowly and deeply for four seconds. Hold the breath for four seconds, spend four seconds exhaling and then wait four seconds before you start again.
  • When you feel your frustration level rise, go for a walk. If you can do it outside and get some fresh air, even better.
  • Try to not complain, as it is not productive. Look at the positives.
  • Put things into perspective. Overall how important is the thing you are frustrated with/about?
  • Be successful. Use the things you get frustrated with to motivate you to improve yourself.
  • Talk with someone who will help you put things into perspective and allow you to vent without making things worse by letting it turn into a complaint session.
  • Accept what you can’t change. If you truly have no control over the actual situation, know you do have control over how you react to it.
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