Coping with stress in the work place

Chances are once you start your “professional career” you will encounter stressful periods of time at work. For accountants, busy season is January – May/June (sometimes longer depending what clients you are on). Stress is inevitable, there is a lot to do in a little amount of time, and some people (myself included) have a hard time coping with it.

I would categorize myself as a stressful person. I always have been and always will be. This past year I would say my stress level got to the absolute worst they could be. Part of it was work related, and part of it was just life. Things happen. Stress can be paralyzing. It can be debilitating to the point where you actually cannot continue to function. For me eating becomes the biggest struggle, and for some sleeping becomes impossible.

Letting yourself get to this point isn’t healthy. I was able to recognize that I was at a point in my life where I needed to change something, I couldn’t keep living with this much stress and anxiety. In my experience the following tips have proven to help me decrease my stress levels and continue on at work, or just life in general.

1. Breathe – As silly as it sounds, stop what you are doing to take a deep breath. A simple breathe in and out can be very helpful.

2. Go for a walk – Get up and go for a walk. Take 5 minutes to stretch your legs. Do a lap around the office, go get a new pen. If you get up and walk around you will feel better.

3. What’s the worst thing that can happen? This was a tip I learned from a book I recently read. What you do is take your current issue and think of what would be the worst thing that could happen (Event A). If event A occurred what would be the next worst thing that would happen (Event B). You keep going until you get to a point where your thoughts and worries seem absolutely absurd. This exercise is a great way to put things in perspective, and it works well with school work too.

4. Decrease your caffeine, increase H20 -This is a huge one and I never knew it actually affected me personally. When I drink too much coffee it definitely adds to my stress and anxiety. I’ve recently tried to cut my caffeine in take to 3/4 of a cup of coffee in the morning. This paired with increased water intake has made a world of difference in how I feel.

5. Make a List – I’m  a list person (type-A). I like lists, they help me stay organized so that I know exactly what is going on. This can act as a double-edged sword however, if you create too daunting of a list it can become to over-whelming and just add stress. I recommend splitting your list int three parts a) the things that need to get done today b) the things that should probably get done today and c) the things that would be nice to get done today. This is a good way of prioritizing what is important.

6. Communication – Communicate with your boss. Tell them exactly what is going on. Even if they don’t ask where you are at it’s always good to send them an email update, or stop by their office at the end of the day just to let them know where you are at. This avoids miscommunication and will inform them exactly where you are at so that there will be no surprises.

7. Physical Exercise – Another important one. Ensuring you have time to release that stress is vital. For me it’s yoga, or stretching that helps me de-stress, what about you?

8. Know when to say no – I’m the worst for this. I like to take on too much, because apparently I think I’m some sort of super hero, and I’m definitely not. This ties in with communication, but you have to know your limits. Know what your boundaries are and know how much you can take on while still staying sane. People will respect you more for saying, “I’m sorry I have too much on my plate right now I don’t want to do a bad job on your project”, rather than taking it on and either not getting it done on time or doing a mediocre or poor job.

These tips are from my personal experience and while they have worked for me they may not work for all people.

What do you do to decrease your stress? Do you have a stress ball?

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2 Responses to Coping with stress in the work place

  1. I remember going for job interviews in my much younger days and the manager would ask how I dealt with stress and I would just shrug my shoulders because back then nothing stressed me out. But that caught up with me as I got older. About 12 years ago we had a period of time in my corporate life very similar to what you experienced in your busy season at your accounting job. We worked non-stop for 4 months. I remember being in the office till 3 am and going home, showering and going back for 7 am. But the work was fun, the money was excellent (overtime) and my team and I just kept going. On May 1st I started to feel quite weird and I constantly had this lump in my throat. For 4 months I hadn’t done any of the things you suggested above in terms of dealing with it, so I spent that summer doing those things, and it made a huge difference.

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