We all know there are two sides to stress. On one hand, there is “good stress”, the one that prompts us to move, to free ourselves and to dare. On the flip side, there is the darker side, bad stress, that has negative effects on our mood, health as well as on our concentration and productivity.
Where does our stress come from at work? How can we get it under control, both to work more calmly or to manage teams more efficiently? How do you turn bad stress into positive energy?
Step 1: understand what causes stress at work
If you are feeling overwhelmed, irritated, or tense, chances are you are under stress. Rest assured, stress is not inevitable. For better stress management, you must first try to understand where it comes from, identify the signs. Once you have put your finger on what triggers the symptoms (heart palpitations, lump in the throat, sweaty hands, muscle tension, redness, insomnia, shortness of breath, great fatigue, etc.), it will be easier to find a solution and put an end to this stress.
Take a step back from your situation. Where could your anxiety be coming from?
Too much work: your goals are too tough to reach or maybe deadlines are impossible to meet? Do you feel you do the work of three people? Or are your tasks too complex or stressful for your level of experience? Working under pressure is the first source of tension!
Lack of confidence in your work from your team: you are micromanaged, your boss keeps checking everything you do, you have no space and very little input in the projects to which you participate.
Not enough recognition: you work well, are reliable, don't count your hours and do your job meticulously, but no one thanks you, people hardly ever say hello to you?
A poor work-life balance: do you have trouble not looking at your emails at night or on weekends, not answering in the minute to your boss’s messages? In short, you’re always working a little, you never truly disconnect. To avoid burn-out and better manage professional expectations, use your right to disconnect!
Conflict with other employees: you are at the mercy of your boss's mood, some colleagues make unpleasant remarks directed at you, are very critical, unreliable...
A mismatch between your values and those of your company: you thought you were working for a company with a mission, caring about its customers and employees, but you find yourself at the heart of a company which overloads its employees with work and doesn't always behave properly? If you're uncomfortable or can't find meaning in what you're doing, it's normal to feel unhappy, less productive, and less creative.
Job insecurity: your job is at risk, the company wants to let some people go, you are afraid of making bad choices as a manager, you doubt the decisions you’ve taken...
Once you have identified the cause of your fear, anger, sadness or your feeling of injustice or overwork, you can take concrete actions to combat this unpleasant condition, which affects you mentally and physically, empties you of all your energy.
Step 2: take concrete actions in your day-to-day
To better control your stress at work, the first thing to do is to talk about it around you, to your close ones, your colleagues or your direct manager. Choose people who can listen and understand your situation, who will not take your feelings lightly. Together, you can find a solution to avoid reaching a point of no return, of burning out. Some companies, for example, offer training to their employees to learn how to manage their stress. There are also tools that can help you. This allows you to better manage your stress and deal with difficulties before it is too late.
Then, to regain your efficiency and your well-being, it is important to take a break and breathe, to slow down. This easy method seems so obvious that it is sometimes not taken seriously. We breathe every second of our life, but so many of us don't know how to breathe properly! However, inhaling and exhaling mindfully is a very effective relaxation technique that can clear your mind and help you better manage your emotions. It only takes 5 minutes a day. If you feel that your breath is choppy, try alternate breathing. Get into a comfortable position, cover your right nostril, take a full breath while inflating your stomach, then breathe out through your mouth until you empty your lungs. Do the same by covering your left nostril, then repeat the exercise twice for each nostril. By activating the pneumo-abdominal nerve, this exercise cuts off the secretion of stress hormones.
Also give yourself some simple goals to regain confidence: practice saying no, try to delegate more often, learn to prioritize better, to organize your time. Be kind to yourself, set achievable goals, differentiate between what is urgent and what is important. Take the time to reflect on your qualities, your strengths and your professional contribution. When you don’t feel good, remembering your past wins, thinking about what is going well can help you take a step back and not focus exclusively on what is not so well. Highlighting your achievements and what you have delivered.
Finally, take care of your body. Remember to play sports, take care of your diet, and turn off the screens after a certain time. Indeed, falling asleep with a book is much more effective than a cell phone or a computer, each of which tends to turn our brains on. In the current context of continuous communication (emails, Slack, Zoom, etc.), make sure to leave your home once a day, to take a walk or just get some fresh air and reconnect with the world around you. To compensate for the negative effects of working from home, the WHO advises doing physical activity for 30 to 40 minutes a day.