• Jan Baker

How can I manage my stress in work?

Updated: May 1

Developing resilience is the first stage in learning how to tackle stress successfully. If you read my blogs regularly, you'll know there are several types of stress.

Resilience is the idea that you can learn to build your tolerance level to pressure, and manage it before it turns into unmanageable stress. From a place of resilience, you can control the effect this stress has on you in a better way.

Different things obviously work for different people. And everyone's work place is slightly different too. So step 1 is identifying things that make you comfortable. Where does your comfort zone sit?

It can be very difficult to see the wood from the trees when your mind isn't clear and you may need some external help sorting out where your brain is taking you in the first instance.

A good starting point, is to think about what's causing your stress and if there is more than one thing; to categorise them into out of my control and under my control (to do something about).

The things out of your control, you have to put to one side, as worrying about these will only get worse. There is nothing you can do about them for the time being, so the sensible thing to do, is to park them until you've sorted out the things you can control.

Therefore look at what you can control and work on reducing these first to make your stress more manageable. These are things like what time you go to bed, what you eat, how much exercise you do, how much time you spend with someone, or on something etc.

Take one thing at a time and don't overwhelm yourself with so much that you give up.

If these are under control, when you are starting to get overwhelmed at work, move onto the next steps:

  1. Try assessing your workload on a day-to-day basis.

  2. Try prioritising your workload (see below).

  3. Try looking at your deadlines & working to those. This should help you plan step 2 well.

  4. Try starting a task rather than sitting worrying about it.

  5. Try doing the harder tasks first.

  6. Try and be realistic about how much time each task will take.

  7. Try learning when to say no to tasks you can’t handle.

  8. Try asking for help when you begin to feel under pressure.

As a teacher, my job would expand to however many hours I was prepared to spend on it. And it was never finished. I ended up working 70 hours a week, frightened to stop. So I've been there & done it!

One of the best to tools I used for planning was this grid below. And I'd really recommend this as a starting point if you're never quite sure how to start prioritising properly.

Basically, you split your workload into the four categories above.

High importance/Urgent - Do now - your priority!

High importance/Not Urgent - Block off the time in your planner to get it done.

Low importance/Urgent - These are the tasks you delegate if you can (or get the time extension on!)

Low importance/Not Urgent - These will probably never get done, so see if they can go in File 13.

File 13? Huh? You've never heard of File 13? File 13 is the bin!

Question is though, do you properly know when to bin stuff?

Not sure? Then ask yourself this question:

If I lost this piece of paper/document etc. would it make me cry?

If the answer is yes, file it away safely (and properly) there and then. If not, then it's probably not that important and can most likely head for File 13 (as long as nobody else needs it!) I love a bit of decluttering - being tidy helps my stress levels enormously!

So having given up teaching, what would make me cry these days? Well, losing all my carefully-stored accounting information for one.... So, yes, it's all put away properly and backed up on my computer and cloud account safely. Thus, I have reduced my stress level immediately over this. See how it works?

Take it from someone who was put under enormous pressure and came out the other end. These things will help.

But, and this important too, also know your limits. There will be times when you will need to walk way, and you will know when you get to that point. It's not a failure; it's self-preservation.

Take care, as always

Jan xx

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