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Managing Work Stress

For many of us, our experience in the workplace can include much worry and stress. The stress we experience at work can lead to anxiety, problems sleeping, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, withdrawal, and even depression.

There may be several reasons why we experience stress at work. Some individuals may feel overwhelmed: “I’ve been assigned too many projects at one time!” Others may feel frustrated: “I cannot complete the project I’m working on until I have the information I need from the other team.” And still others may feel fearful: “I’m afraid I will meet with failure and disapproval.”

When feeling overwhelmed at work, it will be especially important to prioritize, organize, and act decisively. Sometimes difficult or challenging tasks need to be broken down into smaller more manageable steps. This can help us to stay more focused, and as these steps are successfully completed, we will be more able to take comfort in the progress achieved.

When feeling frustrated at work, it may be helpful to turn attention to our experience in relating with others. In our conversation with supervisors, colleagues, or subordinates, careful use of language that reflects collaboration and shared ownership may help reduce anxiety over the limited control you have as one individual. Judicious use of affable and congenial behavior in our interactions with others can also help to support effective collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.

When feeling anxious at work, we often need to address negative thinking and fear of failure.

Now, if your goal is to eliminate negative thinking, I would recommend revising your goal. We use negative thinking to help direct our attention, anticipate problems, and avert failure. But if instead of managing these thoughts to our advantage, we are robbed of our confidence, then there are several ideas which may be helpful. “Is the negative thought I’m experiencing actually true?” “Can I turn the volume down on a negative thought that is only repeating itself over and over?” “Can I at least accompany, if not replace, a negative thought with a positive one?”

There are also several ideas which may be helpful when we are struggling with an underlying (or not so underlying!) fear of failure. First, it may be helpful to remind ourselves that failure is usually not absolute. In fact, success is often built on failures that we encounter and resolve along the way. Now, if we’re going to catastrophize, then we ought at least to look for the comfort we’re supposed to find in facing our worst fear! But the best plan is always never to give up! We are most fearful not when we’re focused on applying ourselves but when we’re just idling helplessly.

And sometimes when we’re stressed at work, it may just help to remind ourselves that we’re doing our best.

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