There’s no question we deal with stress in our jobs and in our personal lives from time to time. When we’re faced with unexpected circumstances that cause us to change our patterns or routines, our stress level heightens.
Even more destructive are situations that are likely to cause mass panic and unpredictable environments. Arguments can easily ensue, tempers flare and innocent people become caught in the crossfires.
If you find yourself immersed in a stressful situation, is there anything you can do to take control of your stress level? What are some ways you can cope to maintain your focus and your sanity? Here are five actions to consider:
1. Limit media exposure
While it behooves you to keep up with events and what the world is doing around you, you don’t need to read all the reports. You don’t have to live in a bubble to escape current events, but you can limit the amount of time you spend listening to and reading stories.
The media is often more concerned with being the first to report on something rather than taking time to check for accuracy. Numbers are often skewed and sources can be unreliable. And the media is the main cause of public reaction, both negative and positive.
If you find yourself feeling panicked ingesting certain news, stop listening to or reading it, and move on to something else.
2. Take charge of conversations
Certain topics remain top of mind for many, especially if the news affects them personally. While it’s okay to express our feelings, there is a time and place for those opportunities. However, not everyone follows those etiquette rules.
If you are in the midst of a conversation that begins to raise your stress level, here are two things you can do:
Change the subject. We can’t all dominate a conversation, but if it starts down a rickety path, you could gracefully steer it toward the project at hand, the team’s goals or other work-related activity.
Walk away. At home, walking away might be more difficult, so you should be honest with your family and let them know you’d rather not continue discussing a certain matter as it’s raising your blood pressure.
At work, if changing the subject does not bring the desired results, you can politely excuse yourself and move on to another project or head back to your office.
Above all, keep your cool and remain calm. Avoid arguing to prove your point. There are times it is best to keep our opinions to ourselves, especially if our goal is to diffuse a situation. It takes more courage to keep silent than to argue with ignorance.
3. Address concerns with leadership
Some events will almost certainly dominate the workplace atmosphere. Leadership should take the reins and work at addressing employee concerns and alleviating fear.
However, people in leadership positions can only do so much. If they’re not aware of the rumors, gossip and volatile attitudes that might be circulating, they should be made aware of those situations. Don’t assume they know what’s taking place. Especially today when so many are unnerved, workplace safety should be at the top of the priority list.
Fear does unimaginable things to people, and reactions can be unexpected. If certain conversations are dominating the focus and affecting productivity, leaders need to do all they can to help employees get refocused. And they need to work at creating a safe environment, as well as a productive one.
4. Pay attention to your health
Maintaining good health should be our personal top priority. If our health isn’t good, we are affected in many ways. If we’re run down, exhausted or overworked, our focus and productivity are adversely affected.
The American Heart Association points out that long-term stress puts us at risk for many adverse health conditions, including anxiety, depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and issues with sleep, memory and concentration.
Physical health includes our diet and exercise. What works for some might not work for others. The key is to recognize what works specifically for you and make time to do what you need. If that includes extra time in the kitchen preparing healthy meals, and more visits to the gym to get your heart pumping and energy levels up, then make sure you schedule time for those activities.
Get plenty of sleep, keep yourself hydrated and make it a habit to eat healthily.
Our mental health is also important. This affects our mindset, so it’s good to keep our mental health in check too. Working on our mental health might include being cautious about what we watch and read (see the Limit media exposure section), taking time to go for a walk on a sunny day to surround ourselves with nature, setting aside a few minutes a day to listen to soft music, or working on a hobby that brings us joy and satisfaction.
You could also make your work or personal environment as pleasing as possible. This might include adjusting the décor, such as adding plants and soothing pictures. Changing the color of the walls, playing soft music or including calming aromatherapies can affect our outlook and mental health. Keep your environment tidy and free of clutter, too, as this often helps us keep our minds clear.
Try as much as possible to adhere to a routine or schedule that works for you to keep you focused on important matters and tasks. Don’t forget to include breaks and downtime.
Preserving our health will strengthen our energy and keep our minds clear so we can make better decisions.
5. Focus on outcomes
An outcome is the result of something. Focusing on the outcome, or result, of what you want to achieve will keep your perspective positive.
Focusing on outcomes moves beyond setting goals. Goals are your aim and what will help you reach your outcomes, but goals often require adjustment. While plans might change, the desired outcome remains the same. When we give our attention to outcomes, this keeps us from becoming distracted by the change around us.
Avoid extended disappointment over unrealized goals by focusing instead on the why rather than the how. Why are you doing what you’re doing? When you think deeply about what you want to achieve and why, the steps to get there might be clearer, but when they change, you won’t be deterred, because your desired outcome (your ultimate desired result) hasn’t changed.
Think about your personal and professional objectives. If you’re clear on your outcomes, your focus won’t change when everything around you does.