There’s no doubt about it. Stress is on the rise in every quarter. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, truck driver, or teacher, if you work in a call center, a fast food restaurant or a bank. According to one study, three out of every four employees think that there is more stress in the workplace today than 20 years ago. Alarmingly, 50% of American workers have reported desk rage, yelling and verbal abuse at their jobs. Considering that recent layoffs force those left behind to work even harder to take up the slack, it makes sense that workplace stress is getting worse by the year.
You can’t control economic conditions, workplace policies or the irritability of your co-workers. But you can stop your own stress! How? By training yourself to maintain a positive outlook. A positive attitude doesn’t mean you pretend that unpleasant situations don’t exist in the workplace. It means that you approach that unpleasantness in a productive way. You choose to handle the situation so you experience relief rather stress. Negativity puts you on a downward spiral, a vicious cycle that increases your stress response. A positive outlook sets you up for finding a solution to the stressor at hand. And even if a solution can’t be found, you are more likely to react with flexibility and resiliency. It’s the difference between holding on to the stressor and letting it eat away at you versus releasing it so you can focus your attention on something more uplifting.
So here’s some SOS for your workplace stress. Use these three strategies to lower your stress experience. Even if nothing in your current workplace circumstances changes, you’ll feel empowered and in charge.
- Check your negativity at the door. Do you come to work with a negative attitude? How are you contributing to the stress and friction at work? Demands on your time, energy and resources can be overwhelming. Problems at home can leak into the workplace arena. It’s easy to fall into the negativity trap. But even if you are not feeling positive, and let’s face it, some days that’s a tall order, you don’t have to contribute to increasing the negativity that exists. Make a commitment to stay out of harmful gossip, cut out complaining, and stop feeding the fear and anger of others.
- Focus on the positive attributes of others. Of course, there are always those in every work situation who drive you crazy. Maybe it’s a micromanaging boss, a slacker co-worker, or a cheer-leading team leader. Don’t let other people’s behaviors ruin your day. Instead, look for something you like in each person you encounter. You will lower your stress response to a difficult behavior when you can place it in the larger context of something positive. Can’t find anything positive? Then ask yourself what you can learn from working with this person, such as patience, compassion or forgiveness. Empower yourself by taking charge of your reactions.
- Smile and say thank you. Smiling makes you feel good. Turning up the corners of your mouth is a signal to your brain that you are in a good mood, so it releases those feel good chemicals. If stress were a snake bite, smiling would be the antidote. Plus, smiling is contagious. You can start an upward spiral by passing along your smile to others. And be sure to pass along your appreciation to others as well. It makes them feel acknowledged and valued. While you’re at it, be sure to accept the appreciation that comes your way. And don’t stop there. Be sure to appreciate yourself for committing to a positive outlook!
Conquering stress starts with you. Imagine how different your workplace could be if there were a critical mass of employees committed to coming to work every day with a positive attitude. Why not start the trend? At the very least, you’ll have a better day, experience better health, a better night’s sleep and a sense of personal satisfaction.