Stress in the Workplace

May 5, 2011

Stressed Out


It’s a word that’s been on my mind a lot lately. How do you handle stress when things get hectic at work?
Wikipedia defines workplace stress as, “The harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when there is a poor match between job demands and the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.
I can definitely relate to this definition. I use to think that my workplace stress was directly connected to my workload. Here at thinkspace my responsibilities are always shifting, increasing, and moving into new territories. However, I learned that my stress has nothing to do with the amount of work on my plate- when you work for a small business there is always going to be more work than time or energy in a day. Instead, I learned that my work stress is connected to my ability to produce meaningful results.
Seth Godin’s recent blog post conveniently popped up on my Google Reader a few days ago, titled Hard work vs. Long work. After reading it I realized that there is a huge difference between working a 14-hour day and getting a ton of ‘stuff’ done, and spending an uninterrupted hour working on something important and shipping it.
There are days when I work long, and there are days when I work hard. When I leave the office after a long day I am usually more stressed out than I was before I plowed through all of the ‘stuff’. When I leave work after a day of hard work I feel accomplished.
It’s important to asses yourself and recognize what is actually at the root of your stress. I’ve learned that self-awareness is such a powerful tool (side note: Alyssa and I attended the Women’s Leadership Summit last month and this was one of the topics that we discussed). After reading Godin’s post and taking a good look at myself- I gained a huge sense of clarity in regards to my relationship with work stress. When you become aware of your stress triggers it’s easier to find ways to manage it.
I also discovered two things that will always bring me back to planet earth, breathing normally, and thinking like a rational human being. They are:

  1. Running
    • The amount of bliss that running brings me is pretty amazing for a sport that requires no investment other than a good pair of shoes.
  2. Talking with my parents and loved ones
    • My parents are amazing at reminding me what’s important, real, and worth the emotional energy. They’re also great at reminding me that I’m an intelligent and skilled individual when I’m feeling unsuccessful.

How about you? What are your triggers that skyrocket your stress and anxiety? What are you tools for managing work stress?
If you haven’t spent much time pondering this topic I recommend taking a good look at your relationship to stress. What is stress costing you?