If you feel stressed at work, join the crowd. Job stress is everywhere. It causes absenteeism, lower productivity, weight gains, high legal and insurance costs, accidents and turnover.
Stress costs business about $300 billion a year, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS).
It’s no surprise that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), says there are several warning signs of workplace stress: headaches, lack of focus, short fuses, sleep deprivation, ulcers, and workplace injuries.
NIOSH says employees are worried about downsizing, increased use of temporary workers, and lack of control over their careers.
So, if any of this sounds familiar to you, there’s nothing like a fresh start to energize a career.
For stepping stones to a new approach, here are 10 career strategies:
1. Perform a SWOT analysis of both your personal skills and your job
Identify all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Assuming you have the passion and skills for your job, then if you still feel overwhelmed at times, the cause might be stress.
Identify the underlying reasons: Relationships with the boss, co-workers and customers; and finances, at work and home.
Launch a campaign to reduce your stress factors by developing a diary of your stress. Analyze how you react to stress. Are your reactions productive? If they’re not, learn relaxation-response techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or the art of positive thinking (seeing every challenge as gift).
Write a balance sheet and seek the answers to these questions: Is this a real problem? Is it quantifiable in dollars and cents? Is it worth fixing? Do the cons outweigh the pros?
Instead of focusing entirely on the challenges, spend more energy creating possible solutions. For every problem, write 10 possible options.
If you determine acceptance is the only answer to your situation and no amount of footwork will solve the problem, it will help if you write a gratitude list. It’s common for a person to dwell on the 10 percent that isn’t working in her or his career instead of the 90 percent that is. Otherwise, if you need to make changes, get busy and set realistic goals.
2. Design a motivating theme to jump start your day
There are days when you need a little extra emotional edge to succeed. You can’t think of one? Some people are motivated by the Nike branding slogan, “Just do it.”
Others rely on listening to music in headsets as they exercise, such as the lyrics in the 1982 Survivor’s tune, “Eye of the Tiger”: “Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past; you must fight just to keep them alive.”
By the way, do you exercise?
3. Get enough rest and recreation
Is lack of sleep preventing you from exercising? The temptation is to ignore the signs by thinking lack of sleep is a result of stress. It was surprising to learn that former NFL great Reggie White apparently died of sleep apnea, which afflicts perhaps as many as 18 million Americans. Most often, sleep apnea causes a person to unknowingly stop breathing while sleeping because of a blockage in the breathing passage. Symptoms include feeling tired during the day and high blood pressure, which lead to a stroke or heart attack.
The diagnosis entails an overnight study; patients are wired to measure their sleep patterns. If sleep apnea is the diagnosis, then usually the patient undergoes surgery or is fitted for a mask and a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing machine, which leads to spectacular results. The CPAP machines cost about $2,000 but insurance companies sometimes have to be lobbied for coverage.
Focus on your hobbies whether they be gardening or playing golf.
4. Improve your management of time and priorities
Does it seem you have too much work and too little time? If so, you might evaluate your time-management skills. While it might be apparent, many people waste time because they don’t fully understand what’s expected of them in their job priorities.
All employees deserve to learn answers to three questions: 1. What’s expected of them? 2. How are they doing? 3. What’s in it for them?
Invest time to understand the big picture and your responsibilities in helping the business attain its objectives. If training is warranted, then negotiate for it and make certain your performance matches your job description goals.
Strike a balance: Make certain you’re perceived as a team player; especially on jobs that aren’t necessarily of benefit to you. On the other hand, learn assertion techniques and don’t let others treat you as a doormat. I recommend the best-selling book, “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty,” by Dr. Manuel Smith.
5. Use education as a powerful tool for success
Obtain the highest degree you can, and invest time and money in continuous education. Preferably, a nonprofit university is best —for quality of education, savings and image. Remember knowledge results in power, but only if it’s used.
Join professional organizations for professional growth, and learn transferable skills so that you can rebound from a layoff or be prepared for unforeseen opportunities.
6. Make certain your communication skills are up-to-date
That includes interpersonal, verbal, and written skills. Don’t be one of these statistics: the National Commission on Writing reported U.S. companies expend $3.1 billion in training each year because their employees can’t write properly. (For tips see the 25Best Practices for Better Business Writing.)
7. Get a mentor
A mentor is someone capable of being objective about your strengths and has the desirable expertise. A good mentor will be honored to be asked for help. Make certain you express your appreciation and learn all that you can so that you can become a mentor yourself someday. A mentor of the same gender is suggested.
8. Act with confidence
Once you’ve performed your SWOT analysis, start growing your confidence: write out a series of affirmations about your abilities, dwell on your past successes, and remember that you’ve been prepared for future adversity. Without being ostentatious, learn to market your skills with your bosses, colleagues, industry peers, and customers. Start by public speaking or writing articles.
9. Look around for someone to help
No matter what your struggles, you can always find someone less fortunate, which will give you a better perspective.Consider Winston Churchill’s words: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
10. Consider self-employment
If your SWOT analysis identifies entrepreneurial skills, it might be worth becoming your own boss.It’s very hard work to own your job, but a career as an entrepreneur can be very rewarding, especially if you’re skilled at finding needs to fill.
From the Coach’s Corner, for more insights on managing stress:
- Proof Positive: How Supportive Spouses Help in Work-Related Stress
- 23 Tips to Reduce Stress, Work Happier for Top Performance
“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”