Don't let stress affect your work performance

Some situations are out of your control. Your reactions aren't.

When stress hits hard, it can be difficult to cope with job demands alongside tough situations. 

Writing for Fast Company, Gwen Moran shares six pieces of expert advice for coping with troubling events without sacrificing your work performance.

1. Recognize what's out of your control

Matthew Digeronimo, a former nuclear submarine lieutenant commander and the coauthor of the book Extreme Operational Excellence: Applying the U.S. Submarine Culture to Your Organization, says anxious feelings often result from a lack of control.

But when you identify the aspects of a situation you can control, he says, you will regain some of your sanity.

For instance, you could choose to cut back on your time in the office to work from home one day a week or schedule meetings during the times when you have most energy.

2. Prioritize

Alicia Clark, an adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, says high-performing employees tend to go above and beyond their basic responsibilities on a daily basis. But during times of stress, she says, high-performers should consider scaling back.

Moran suggests asking yourself:

  • Where can you cut back?
  • Where can you save time? and
  • What tasks can you put off without much consequence?

3. Put your perfectionism on hold

Clark says that during times of high stress, it's OK to accept "good enough." If you're normally a high achiever, this may be difficult for you. But Clark says letting go of perfection can free up the time and energy necessary for coping.

Otherwise, says Clark, you could risk burning out.

4. Resist impulses

Research from the University of Pittsburgh recently found that stress impacts the area of the brain responsible for regulating problem solving and impulse control.

You need to recognize that your ability to make the right decisions might be temporarily jeopardized. If you need to make any important decisions during a time of stress, be sure to slow down and give them more thought.

5. Don't over-share

Decide in advance the extent to which you will discuss your stress at the office. Digeronimo says this decision varies from situation to situation.

As a general rule of thumb, if your stress is affecting your work performance, you should keep your boss in the loop. When you tell him or her about what's going on, be sure to share your strategy for managing the stress as well.

Digeronimo suggests refraining from sharing the same amount of information with your coworkers, so as to avoid office gossip.

6. Take a break

Don't be afraid to accept help from others if it frees up some of your time, says Richard Citrin, the founder of Citrin Consulting and author of The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience.

Even a little bit of free time will give you the chance to take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep and exercising regularly will strengthen your coping abilities in times of turmoil (Moran, Fast Company, 11/7).

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