April was stress awareness month, and it made me think a lot about stress and how it affects us. Like high blood pressure, stress can be good and bad. High blood pressure is good when you're working out; you're pushing your body, and it's getting stronger. But when you're sitting idle, it isn't good...it's a serious health problem.
The same is true with stress at work - you don't want it to paralyze you in everyday tasks, but before a big presentation or interview, stress is a good thing; it means you care. Good stress stems from striving for success on a task or goal. Bad stress is different...it often comes from being underprepared, cramming at the last minute or obsessing over things beyond your control.
Before your hair is in your hands (if you even have any left), consider the following pointers to help manage the "good" stress at work, and in every aspect of your life:
When you feel yourself heating up with anxiety about upcoming tasks or events, being active can help avoid a major meltdown. Step outside for some fresh air, take a walk, or if you're really short on time, take a brief moment to stretch out and release tension. This will reinvigorate you. Not only does physical activity reduce stress, it makes you more alert, allows you to speak more easily and assuredly, and gets you focused. This may mean pushing your schedule back 5 or 10 minutes, but it's worth it. You'll be refreshed, and you'll work smarter.
Wake up earlier
Much easier said than done, but believe me...starting your day even 30 minutes earlier can make all the difference. In that time you can read the paper without distractions, listen to or watch your favorite news program, stretch, meditate, have breakfast, etc. Having time to ease into your day is much better and healthier than frantically rushing to your desk every morning. A rushed start can make you feel stressed all day, so it's worth rising a few minutes earlier to avoid it. Imagine the possibilities with an extra hour!
Strategize your to-do list
Grid your tasks so that you can easily find the home runs, and hit them first. Organize them by difficulty (easy, medium, hard), and then by potential impact (large, medium, small). When you have it written out, it's much easier to locate the main source of stress, and tackle it effectively. And oftentimes, just by doing 20 percent of the work, you can potentially meet 80 percent of your goals.
Put everything into perspective
On your desk, have a story about someone's life that is less fortunate than yours to put everything into perspective. When something happens that "stresses you out," the reality is, it's probably not that bad in comparison to the many people who struggle daily to put food on the table, or to even have a job or career. This will also help you become more grateful, which increases happiness.