Passport Series: Stress Management

Nelsa Uson

One of the things that can impact your success in the workplace is healthy stress management skills. When you get stressed, your body thinks you’re in danger and proceeds to do whatever it can to protect you. When properly maintained and managed, this is a good thing. It can remind you, for example, to take a much-needed break after a few hours of hard work, or help you say “no” when your bucket is too full. In fact, a little stress can even help you stay focused and motivated to complete your tasks, but it’s when your stress isn’t properly managed that it starts to affect your performance. For some, this looks like zoning out when confronted with a hard problem. For others, it’s getting verbally defensive in a conversation, or maybe procrastinating. What it looks like is different for everyone, but the outcome is the same: loss of productivity, motivation and job satisfaction.

While you can’t control what happens to you, you can control how you react to it. Before we get into some tips, take note that OFE is not a health care provider. If your stress is starting to impact your health, please ask your Employment Consultant (EC) or other OFE staff members where you can go for immediate assistance.

Know your warning signs. If you want to get intentional about managing your stress, start by paying close attention to your moods and triggers. Something you previously dismissed as harmless or coincidence may actually be more important than you think. It may feel like a lot of work at the start, but trust me, once you figure out your signs, you’ll be better equipped to minimize the effect on your performance.

Think differently. Instead of closing yourself off when confronted with a new task or situation, why don’t you look at it as a learning opportunity instead? Remind yourself that the person assigning this task is doing it for two reasons: a) they believe you have the ability to do it, and b) they want you to grow your skills and get better at your job. Don’t be afraid to ask for the instructions again, ask clarifying questions, or simply acknowledge that you don’t know what you’re doing. With the right intentions, saying “I don’t know” out loud will do wonders for keeping your stress at a healthy level.

Shifting your perspective won’t happen overnight, but every time you succeed in pushing past your embarrassment to ask questions and be open, it gets easier, and before you know it, it’s automatic.

Write it down. I get stressed when I think about all the things I need to get done in a workday. Since I know most of those things are important and shouldn’t be ignored, I learned to make a list. Every time a thought pops up that is not related to my current task, I write it down then push the thought away and continue with what I’m doing. Since it’s written down, I don’t have to worry about forgetting it or missing a deadline. “Writing it down” might look different for you. Maybe what works best is writing notes in a calendar, or taking pictures, or recording a voice memo. The idea is to prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed by clearing clutter from your head.

Surround yourself with positive energy. Participating in conflict is not productive when trying to maintain a healthy stress level. Even though you feel good in the moment, you subconsciously end up carrying that negative energy with you into the rest of your day, and that will affect your ability to think differently (see above). Don’t be afraid to turn away from a negative conversation or to simply say “no”. It’s also important to monitor negative thinking in ourselves. Your thoughts carry a lot of power, so keep them positive!