Managing Workplace Stress - Adopting a Problem Solving Approach

Identify Controllable Versus Uncontrollable Stressors

If you are feeling under stress at work, it may be beneficial to problem solve through controllable versus uncontrollable stressors. Write a list of stressors that you can control and those that you can’t actively control or change.

  • For those that can be changed or controlled, make an action plan on how you will work to manage this. A lot of us are goal focused, and adopting a plan of action will help us to feel more in control of the situation or stressor.

  • For those stressors that you may not have any control over, strategies will need to be implemented to manage both the reaction to this, as well as your perspective. For example, if handling difficult inquiries is a part of your role, establishing methods to “defrag” after the conversation, such as going for a short walk, talking to a colleague or having a 5 minute relaxation session may be of great value.

Resolving Conflict Proactively and Promptly.

When it comes to resolving conflict in the workplace, this can be a key stressor for some people. This can result in either inappropriate strategies to dealing with such situations, or avoiding this completely, both of which can result in increased stressors. Some helpful tips to dealing with conflict both proactively and promptly can include:

  • Practice assertive communication and problem solving approaches.

  • Express your needs and opinions clearly and respectfully.

  • Accept compromise when feasible and appropriate to do so.

  • Seek advice from appropriate supervisors and mentors – talking through the approach you wish to adopt can help you to feel confident, as well as allowing you to practice. They may also provide insights and perspectives that you may not have already considered.

Effective Time and Task Management

Learning and utilising effective time and task management skills can assist in easing the pressure of deadlines, making an effective use of your time and reducing work stress in general.

Below are some tips to improve your focus at work, as well as managing your work projects effectively:

1. Set clear goals - It is very important to establish what your short-term and long-term goals are. This can assist in planning and prioritising, as well as giving you a goal to work towards. It is important to make sure that your goals are achievable and meaningful. If you are looking for tips on effective goal setting, please refer to our previous blog.

2. Making a to-do-list - To-do-lists can help us to get down on paper what we need to get done, allowing us to then prioritise and work through. There is nothing more satisfying than crossing something off your to-do-list, and this alone can help achieve a sense of accomplishment and reduce feelings of tension. It is important to make sure that your list is achievable, as if you make this too long you will only feel more overwhelmed.

3. Prioritise - Now, if you are anything like me, there is a good chance that you won't be able to get everything on the to-do-list done. This is where prioritising comes in. It may be helpful to number your tasks or assign them importance, such as an ABC status. A could be the most important tasks, B the mid level importance and C the least important.

3. Set yourself deadlines - From your to-do-list you can set yourself deadlines to hold yourself accountable for achieving tasks and elements of each task. It can be helpful, and more motivating, to break down bigger projects into smaller elements. This can assist if you are prone to becoming distracted, or unmotivated by larger tasks. Make sure that you write these deadlines down, or put these into your calendar. It may also be beneficial to include your team and colleagues in this, particularly if you will require their input or support.

4. Delegate responsibilities and tasks - For some of us delegation does not come naturally, we may like to be in control, or feel uncomfortable asking others for assistance. Delegation, however, it is vital component of effective task and time management, allowing us to utilise resources more effectively. It is definitely not a sign of weakness or lack of accountability, it is a smart, and efficient, way of getting things done!

5. Use your down time effectively - Now we are not saying that you should not have any down time, but if you find yourself stuck in traffic or sitting on the bus, this may be a good time to start writing your to-do-list or prioritising the tasks for the day.

6. Stop multi-tasking! and minimise distractions - Despite how some of us think we are excellent at multi-tasking, or that men aren’t able to do more than one thing at a time but women can effectively – humans are not very good at multi-tasking. Dividing attention across multiple activities is taxing on the brain and can often come at the expense of read productivity.

7. Take regular breaks and micro-breaks - Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help us to maintain our focus, keep our minds fresh and feel energised. This means that at lunch time, try to take a real break away from your computer and work, either sitting in a lunch room, going for a walk or at least getting outside. Micro-breaks are small, regular breaks throughout the day which help to re-focus your attention. These are not major breaks such as going to get a glass of water, chatting with a colleague, checking in on your family, along those lines. These small breaks will see you more focused, and in the long run, more efficient.

Some tips to increase your Micro-breaks throughout the day include:

  • Move your printer to an area that requires you to stand up and walk to get the print-out

  • Stand up whilst taking phone calls

  • Go to the restroom or grab a cup of water, coffee or tea

  • Alter your tasks – e.g. break up continuous computer work or report writing by checking email or phone messages, making phone-calls etc.

  • Every time you complete a task, stand up and/or stretch, glance away from the computer, grab a drink etc.

Some of the tips for micro-breaks coincide with those for increasing your incidental exercise, so therefore why not combine the two and reap greater rewards!

Utilising the above strategies can help to maintain an efficient and effective approach to your tasks, squeezing more out of your day and maintaining your focus. In turn, this will assist in feeling that you are accomplishing your goals and targets at work, as well as allowing for a greater potential for a healthy work / life balance.

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