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--- news (11/28/2012)
One in four people have missed work as a result of work-related stress

As reported by Mental Health America, stress affects us at work. When we are under chronic stress, we often have trouble meeting deadlines, concentrating and making decisions. Our productivity and performance decrease as our stress levels increase. We may also become easily irritated and overwhelmed, and have relationship problems with colleagues. Many people who are over-stressed at work are unable to leave their job-related issues behind at night or they feel immobilized on the job.

Understanding the many causes and triggers of workplace stress makes it easier for managers to take proactive steps to reduce stress before detrimental consequences occur. Research shows that chronic stress can actually double your risk of having a heart attack. Here are some strategies to help better manage stress. These tips may seem like common sense, but few of us apply them to our daily lives.

• Treat your body right. Eating right and exercising can increase your tolerance to stress.
• Set realistic goals. Do what’s possible and carry on.
• Set and reset your priorities. Take care of important and difficult tasks first, and eliminate unessential tasks.
• Take one task at a time. Divide large projects into smaller tasks, and make “to do” lists.
• Take five. Taking a short break can help slow down your mind long enough to improve your ability to deal with stress later.
• Learn to relax or meditate. Studies show that just 10 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection or meditation a day can bring relief from chronic stress and increase your tolerance to it.
• Give yourself a break. No one is perfect. Striving to be the best in everything will lead to worry, anxiety and failure.
• Be flexible. Make allowances for other people’s opinions and be prepared to compromise.
• Avoid excessive competition. Excessive competition can be dangerous emotionally and physically—not to mention damaging to your job.
• Go easy on criticism. You may expect too much of yourself or others. Try not to feel let down or frustrated when your expectations aren’t met.
• Manage your anger. Retreat before you lose control. Allow time for both parties to cool down. You’ll be better equipped to handle the problem constructively later.
• Talk it out with a loved one. Talking it out can help you see things more clearly, release negative feelings and get emotional support.

While we all need a certain amount of stress to spur us on and help us perform at our best, the key to managing stress lies in that one magic word: balance.
• Set manageable goals each day. Being able to meet priorities helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and control. The latest research shows that the more control we have over our work, the less stressed we get. So be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to do” list, taking care of important tasks first and eliminating unessential ones. Ask for help when necessary.
• Be efficient with your time at work. When we procrastinate, the task often grows in our minds until it seems insurmountable. So when you face a big project at work or home, start by dividing it into smaller tasks. Complete the first one before moving on to the next. Give yourself small rewards upon each completion, whether it’s a five-minute break or a walk to the coffee shop.
• Tune in. Listen to your favorite music at work to foster concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate creativity. Studies dating back more than 30 years show the benefits of music in everyday life, including lowered blood pressure. Be sure to wear headphones on the job, and then pump up the volume—and your productivity.
• Communicate effectively. Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you’re in a bind. Chances are, you’re not alone. But don’t just complain—suggest practical alternatives. Looking at a situation from someone else’s viewpoint can also reduce your stress.
At Home
• Turn off your PDA. The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their jobs flexibly can also burn us out if we use them 24/7.
• Divide and conquer. Make sure responsibilities at home are evenly distributed and clearly outlined—you’ll avoid confusion and problems later.
• Don't over-commit. Do you feel stressed when you even glance at your calendar? If you’re overscheduled with activities, learn to say no. Shed the superman/superwoman urge!
• Get support. Chatting with friends and family can be important to your success at home and at work, and can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.
• Take advantage of your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many organizations offer resources through an EAP, which can save you time by providing guidance on issues like where to find a daycare center and caretaking for an elderly parent, as well as referrals to mental health and other services.
• Get help if you need it. Don’t let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. If you are persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.

When stress at work interferes with your ability to perform your job, manage your personal life or adversely impacts your health, it’s time to take action. Start by paying attention to your physical and emotional health. When your own needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress. The better you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed.

Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness – taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.

Source: Mental Health America

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