All Articles Tagged "workplace stress"
I abruptly woke up late one night; my sleep was cut short by an unyielding attack of thoughts about all the things that I had to get done at work in the next few weeks and months. My thoughts quickly escalated into panic. I felt my heart beating wildly in my chest, echoed by a pulsing whoosh sound in my head, and then finally, I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. I burst into ugly, uncontrollable sobs – overwhelmed by the crushing weight of helplessness. “This is not normal! This is not normal!” I repeated out loud to nobody but myself.
That indeed was not normal. All the signs were there: my job was killing me — literally. I knew that I had to do something to take back control of my health and my life, but to quit my job so unexpectedly without another one lined up would be insanity. Or would it? The thought of handing in my resignation petrified me, but a nagging part of me longed for change. I pondered over this problem for a few days following the night of my emotional outburst, and asked myself these six questions:
Can I afford to quit?
The money thing was a big deal and probably my biggest source of apprehension. I looked at my finances and calculated that I could last three to four months without having to dip into my emergency savings. I figured three months would be long enough for me to get myself sorted and if things did get really tough, I could always pick up temp work or casual employment to supplement my savings while I looked for a new job.
Can I afford to not quit?
Some quick research online and talks with recruiters informed me that in my industry there were employers out there willing to pay 30% – 50% more than what I was currently making for someone with skills similar to mine. It would be a shame to leave that kind of money on the table.
Aside from money, there were other important factors I had to consider such as my mental and emotional health. I had been descending deeper into a dark place: I had become easily irritable, slightly paranoid and had developed a strange habit of repeatedly tapping my foot while I worked. Negative emotions are vital to our survival in this world – they serve as crucial signals of things that are not right in our lives. My heart was desperately pleading for me to quit.
How’s the hiring market?
The economy was not in recession. I had a good amount of work experience under my belt and, objectively, I was a very employable candidate. If push came to shove after three months, I could easily go work for a competitor.
Can I sacrifice the security of the job that I’d done for so long and knew so well?
Part of my problem was that I’d been doing my job for so long and knew it too well. I wasn’t learning new things or deepening my skills in a significant way. The job had become challenging for the wrong reasons – more administrative BS, unreasonable deadlines, etc. — nothing that added any intellectual value. I was plagued by a feeling of being underemployed so much so that unemployment looked like a better prospect; at least I’d have more control over how I spent my time.
Who depends on me?
I’m as single as a dollar bill and have no kids or other dependents. If there was ever a time to take a risk, it would be now.
How would I explain the gap in employment on my resume?
I was really concerned about this one and so I turned to a friend who had just gone through quitting her job without another in hand for some advice. She had told interviewers that she had been travelling (which was a true fact) and would “regale them with stories of [her travels].” What her insight taught me was that I am in control of the narrative and how it’s told. All I had to do was decide what that story would be, speak confidently about it and not share unnecessary details with the interviewers.
After thoughtfully going through these questions, the risk of quitting didn’t seem quite as risky as I’d initially perceived it to be. In fact, it appeared that the cost of staying put in my old job had surpassed the cost of quitting. So I resigned and shortly after got scooped up by another company that paid me more and had better working hours and flexible arrangements.
While things certainly worked out for me, I will add this caveat that leaving a job without a plan B might not be for everyone. A wise friend of mine pointed out that unemployment looks like different things to different people: for some it might mean homelessness, for others it might mean backpacking in Europe for a few months. It depends on what you can afford and what you are willing to risk. I think the important thing, however, is to honestly and objectively assess the risk because sometimes we tend to err too much on the side of caution when it might be more beneficial to try something new. If you’re still unsure after that, follow your instincts – they’re usually right.
Those of us with anxiety often play out a compilation of narratives in which the worst that can happen ultimately does. These thoughts are sometimes triggered by presentations, projects, and challenges at work. Whereas these thoughts may be difficult to work through, it is not impossible. Here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me to overcome anxiety in the workplace.
Own It! I’m nervous. I’m worried. I’m scared. Acknowledge the feelings you have, and do not run from them. By accepting that you are in a vulnerable state and deciding to work through it, you stop yourself from freaking out ABOUT freaking out. Now all you have to do is figure out how to work through these feelings.
Take a Few Deep Breaths. How annoying is it when you are upset or talking faster than you can think and someone says, “Calm down. Take a breath?” Pretty annoying. However when it comes to one of my work panic attacks, taking deep breaths helps me to regain control over my mind and body. Now I can think clearly, and see that I am more than likely making my situation bigger than it is. The only breathing technique that has worked for me is inhaling slowly through my nose, and then exhaling slowly through my mouth. However, there are numerous breathing techniques that may be a better fit for you. Try researching a few, and practicing them at a time when you don’t feel anxiety so you are equipped with techniques when you really need them.
Get Physical. If you have a few minutes before that meeting or even better a meal time before the big presentation you are dreading, get up and stretch or walk. Just get moving! It’s hard to focus on what “could” happen, when you are present in the moment. Physical activity forces your mind to pay attention to something else. And a little exercise never hurts.
Go Outside. If you can get some physical activity in outside, even better! Nature always calms me down and helps me to wheel in all of those mind-racing thoughts in. Even if you only have five minutes, I highly recommend getting some fresh air. Connecting with nature helps me to acknowledge my life’s purpose and not to sweat the small stuff.
Negate Negative Thoughts With Positive Thoughts. Through years of practice, I am finally getting good at pointing out self-depreciating thoughts and negating them with positive and true affirmations. As soon as “You can’t do that” pops in my head, I negate it with “Why not me? I am more than capable.” Or, more often than not, I’ll turn to a Bible verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Now these are just some of the ways that I make it through my trying times at work. I know how it feels to constantly feel like it’s the end of the world when partaking on a new career journey, leading a project, giving a presentation and other various experiences that come along with pursuing successful careers. Although these tips work for me (most of the time), they may not work for you, but the only way you can be defeated is if you quit. Research tips for overcoming anxiety, read inspirational books, and if it feels like more than you can handle, don’t go it alone. Seek attention from a mental health professional. Whatever steps you take, do not give up on yourself. There is purpose for your life, and you can have your career and life dreams, as long as you don’t let fear stop you.
Work is chaotic. There is one fire after another to put out. You find yourself getting more and more stressed. Well, de-stress—right now!
According to psychologists it is possible to wind down in three simple steps that were “developed by psychologists specifically for people with dementia,” reports Inc.
The three magical steps?
1) Awareness. Keep a so-called “anxiety journal,” whether real or virtual. Take note and become aware of when you feel anxious and what are the physical signs of anxiety. This way you can prepare yourself for these situations — or avoid them, all together.
2) Breathing. Take long, deep breaths to relax. “You can count slowly while breathing in and out and try putting your hand on your stomach and feeling the breath moving in and out,” explains the magazine. Those of you who take Pilates might recognize this move.
3) Calming thoughts. Of course it is hard to think of calming thoughts in the midst of a disaster, so get your calming thoughts ready in advance. “They could be as simple as ‘Calm down!’ but they need to be things that you personally believe in for them to be most effective,” notes Inc.
If these three steps don’t work, try chewing gum, a self-massage (on your neck and shoulders), a cup of chamomile tea, or even close your office door and meditate for five minutes.
How do you de-stress at work?
Seasonal Stressers: How To Unwind At Work, At Home, and Everywhere in Between During This Holiday Period
End-of-the-year work crunch. Holiday shopping and entertaining. Crowded public transportation and traffic jams. This can all lead up to major stress. But you can take steps to de-stress and enjoy the season to its fullest.
Stressers at work can be at an all-time high at this time of year, as projects may need to completed before the year’s end, you may have more meetings with potential clients to ink deals to start 2013 off, or you just want to get organized before the new year comes in.
There are ways to elevate pressure on the job, especially before a major presentation or meeting:
- Keep a photo of your significant other or close friend with you. “A minute or two spent looking at the photo before you are ‘on’ can reset your nervous system. You’ll then feel more relaxed and confident because you’ll feel more grounded and at home, even in an uncomfortable or unusual setting,” writes Inc.
- Keep something on your desk to play with, like a squeeze ball. “The process of squeezing and tensing muscles and then letting go–even if just using fine motor movements–drops your heart rate and makes you less nervous. You can also play with beads or roll stones in your hand; that’s why playing with a pen helps many people focus,” according to the magazine.
It’s hard not to bring the stresses from work to home, and during this season you may find more tensions in the household, what with planning family events, cooking special holiday meals, and decorating your home holiday hosting. So it is important to have peace of mind on the home front as well.
- Continue or start an exercise routine. “It always feels like money in the bank when you get your exercise in, in the wee hours of the morning. A good brisk walk or run just before the day begins will work wonders on holiday stress,” explains Marlene Adelmann, certified herbalist and founder of the Herbal Academy of New England. “Take some deep breaths of fresh air, literally fill your lungs. Hold it just for a second or two and then let it out.”
- Sleep works wonders. You will perform better at work and have more energy to get all that Christmas shopping done.
- Skip the coffee. “A cup of chamomile tea after dinner (not right before bed because it may cause you to wake to visit the bathroom) will insure sound sleep,” Adelmann tells us in an email.
- Self massage. Yes, give yourself a massage when your get home. After a long day at the computer or maneuvering all the crowds during shopping your muscles will be tense. The shoulders and neck always hold in tension, so it is a great idea to massage that area. “Reach with your right hand (across your body), resting the palm of your hand on top of shoulder (with fingers on your back) and most importantly with the base knuckle of your thumb pressing against neck muscles,” offers licensed massage therapist Michele Merhib, founder of Elements Therapeutic Massage. “Slowly rotate your head and neck, pressing neck muscles against thumb knuckle. This will massage your neck muscles. Keeping hand in same place, press into your back muscle (between your shoulder blade and spine) with fingertips and rotate your left shoulder blade. Reach and relax the left arm to massage the upper back/shoulder region. Repeat on other side.”
At Holiday Events
The season is filled with may obligatory holiday socializing, whether it be the company Chirstmas party or holiday dinner with friends or family get-togethers.
- Make an appearance and a graceful exit. “If you have social commitment that you’re dreading, be targeted about how you spend your time when you get there. Arrive early and spend a few minutes one on one with the host. Put in your face time, do the necessary networking and be on your way,” advises organizational expert Barbara Reich, author Secrets of an Organized Mom.
- And it’s okay to declines some offers. “Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to those events that you truly don’t want to attend. It’s having too many obligations that makes the holidays stressful instead of enjoyable,” Reich says in an interview.
So take a few minutes to unwind, you will be able to perform at work better, stay energized during your shopping and then enjoy spending time with others this holiday season.