Everyone experiences stress at some point or another. In fact, 27 percent of Canadian workers report being “highly stressed” on a day-to-day basis, while an additional 46 percent report feeling “a bit” stressed . And the source of this stress will likely come as no surprise. For 62 percent of Canadians, the culprit is—you guessed it—work.
Because stress is such a common experience, it can be tempting for employees and employers alike to simply live with it—without taking real action to manage it. The thing is, without measures in place to proactively address workplace stress, it can quickly escalate—leading to mental health issues such as burn-out, anxiety and depression.
So how do you properly manage workplace stress? The key is to clearly identify and understand it, and develop a plan to cope with it ahead of time. Rather than simply blaming “work” for your sleepless nights, this type of approach will allow you to dig deeper, pinpoint the exact aspect of work that’s stressing you out and address it before it becomes a problem.
To put this type of plan into action, it’s essential to take time to reconnect with your values and examine your response to stress. Here, we explore a couple ways how.
Reconnect with your values
What do you value above all else? Your personal integrity and authenticity? Your interpersonal relationships? Your creative endeavours outside work?
Whatever your top values are, it’s important to identify them—and revisit them any time you feel stressed. This is because, too often, stress at work (and at home) stems from these values being challenged.
For example, if deadlines are an ongoing issue for you, that may be because you value both timeliness and attention to detail. In this case, a deadline is the catalyst, your inability to achieve your ideal quality of work while also being timely is the true root of your stress. In this scenario, your values are in conflict because you feel you’ll have to make a sacrifice in one area to succeed in another. You either miss the deadline to submit high-quality work, or meet the deadline but know you could have written a better report.
Being aware of your values can help you create an action plan to find balance again—either by, say, asking for more time to complete a project at the outset, or giving yourself permission to submit a report that’s “good enough”.
Reassess your ability to cope
Everyone copes with change—and the stress that comes with it—differently. Think about it. If your company suddenly decided to implement new software, some people would approach the stress of learning a new program with excitement as it would allow them to streamline their workflow and simplify their lives.
Many others, on the other hand, might be overwhelmed by the demands of learning a new technology. Perhaps technology isn’t their strength, or their job is more demanding and they simply don’t have time to learn the new program. This latter group may find it difficult to cope in this situation—which, inevitably, will lead to increased stress. In this type of scenario, it’s beneficial to take a step back, identify the existing beliefs that are making it difficult to cope and challenge them.
For instance, if this situation causes you stress because you think you’re not a tech person, perhaps you can remind yourself of a time you broke out of your comfort zone to master a new skill. If you’re too busy, re-evaluate your schedule to see if you can reprioritize some of your tasks. Often, many things on our to-do lists can be pushed back or delegated. Lastly, if in doubt, ask for support. Maybe one of your colleagues can explain the new software to you in a way you’ll understand
The bottom line? You’re likely more resilient and capable than you know.
A team effort
Workplace stress can be alleviated—but it requires the cooperation of employers, managers, supervisors and employees to make it happen. While employees will benefit from reconnecting with their personal values and enhancing their ability to cope with stress as it arises, employers and managers can help by keeping their team’s values, strengths and support requirements top-of-mind.
By identifying areas where employees may need support, employers, managers and supervisors can take a proactive approach to workplace stress—either by connecting employees with complementary skills, supporting them during busy seasons or equipping them with the tools they need to embrace impending change.
Whether this is done informally or through a mentorship or peer support program, the key is to acknowledge that workplace stress won’t go away on its own. To create a workforce that’s healthy, happy and fulfilled, everyone must play their part.