How to best deal with workplace stress

How to best deal with workplace stress

Stress is part of our everyday lives. Our ability to deal with it, direct it or eliminate it will have a big impact our levels of effectiveness, wellbeing and satisfaction now and in their future.

As a CIO, you are constantly asked to do more with less and held to greater levels of organisational accountability. 

Stress is part of our everyday lives. Our ability to deal with it, direct it or eliminate it will have a big impact our levels of effectiveness, wellbeing and satisfaction now and in their future.

Think back to a young age when you were feeling pressured or stressed. How you handled that situation is probably the same way you deal with stressful situations today. The way we managed our emotions and minds and ultimately our stress levels at early ages very often set the blueprint for how we operate throughout the rest of our lives.

We usually develop patterns of handling stress in one of two ways; either the pressure and stress builds up to the point where it impacts our ability to think and act on a daily basis, or we learn how to handle the stress and keep going and performing with the stress.

Stress isn’t necessarily bad, because you can channel it into performance and producing results. It’s chronic stress or constant stress and not having the tools to deal with it that leads to problems.

Tools for how to handle pressure and stress in today’s world are essential. What if there was a way to perform and operate without being stressed at all? What if there was an option for learning how to perform without holding onto any stress?

We need to teach our teams how to perform under pressure without getting stressed. This will lead to clear thinking, right judgement and success while remaining calm and satisfied.

One of the best techniques to follow in order to do this is the STRESS method:

1. Stop

As soon as you notice you are getting stressed, immediately stop what you are doing. You may notice you are having an emotional reaction such as getting upset or angry. Physical symptoms are a good clue: headaches, shaking, tense necks and shoulders, upset stomach or overall muscle tension are all common signs. 

2. Timeout

Take a breath and hit the pause button. It’s time to create a moment to allow yourself to separate from the stressful thought, feeling, or emotion. We want to observe it rather than be consumed by it. A calming breathing exercise is helpful at this stage to create a moment to allow yourself to seperate from the thought or feeling that has arisen. For suggestions on this type of exercise read my previous article on mindfulness.

3. Rethink

Now that you have separated from the thoughts/emotions, it is now time to rethink or relook at the situation from a proactive, logical approach, rather than from the automatic reaction that has probably triggered the stress.  Use logical based questions to force yourself to think and operate from the logical as opposed to emotional parts of the brain.

4. Empathise

Have some compassion for yourself and don’t beat yourself up. Make sure you are looking at what is working and not just what is wrong.  Or is this one of those situations where we expend a great deal of energy on a concern about something that never happens or when it does afterwards you think “oh – that wasn’t so bad!

5. Smile

Alter your physical state and your mental and emotional state will follow.

6. Start Again

Restart the activity with a logical based, stress-free, calm and clear mind.

So next time you are feeling stressed, think “Stop,” take timeout to rethink, empathise with yourself and how you are feeling, smile and start again.

Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. Over the past 25 years, he has worked with over 35,000 people to create high performance organisations, teams and individuals.

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