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3 proactive ways to deal with stress.

Stress. It’s absolutely everywhere, from the second your alarm jolts you awake in the morning to when you’re struggling to fall asleep at night. It’s in traffic. It’s in the doctor’s office. It’s at the parent-teacher interview. In many ways stress seems inescapable, to the point where many people assume constant stress is normal. But is it?

Stress affects everyone differently

Before you read any further, it’s important to recognize that stress is experienced subjectively. What might be a very stressful situation for one person might not bother another person at all. Similarly, everyone has varying degrees of what they consider tolerable stress. For instance someone like Serena Williams, who lives under intense public scrutiny and carries an enormous weight of expectation on her shoulders, can tolerate a higher degree of daily stress than the average person.

Stress can also manifest itself in surprising ways. Some people get angry when they’re stressed, others feel sad. Stress can motivate one person to work harder, and scare another person into completely shutting down. What usually happens to you when you get stressed out? To manage your stress, get in the habit of noticing what causes your stress and how you react. And try to be specific. It’s not enough to realize that your job is stressful, for example. Think about what in particular about it weighs on you. Is it pitching to prospects? Meeting tight deadlines? Laying off employees? The closer you can get to the root of your stress, the better equipped you’ll be to handle it.

Dealing with stress proactively

Let’s say laying off or firing employees is what stresses you out the most about your job. You determine that the hardest part is having to break the news to them face-to-face. Instead of waiting for the next ill-fated employee to come into your office, prepare yourself as much as possible in advance. Here’s what you can do, in this or any other situation, to manage your stress:

  1. Learn. One of the biggest sources of stress is uncertainty. You’re more likely to get concerned about something if you don’t understand it. To mitigate this, research as much as you can about the thing that’s stressing you out. Following our previous example, this could include watching videos of HR or health care professionals demonstrating appropriate ways to talk about sensitive subjects, or reading a book on crucial conversations.
  2. Practice. Understanding and familiarity can also be built up through practice. Serena practices endlessly to perfect her technique so that her performance doesn’t have to be a source of stress in her life. She doesn’t stop until she’s confident in her ability. Likewise, practicing the difficult conversation you’re about to have with your employee over and over again will make it much easier when the actual time comes.
  3. Seek help. Another effective way to beat stress is to work through it with a friend, colleague, or family member. Just as Serena turns to her sister and coaches for advice, so too can you speak to your manager or HR team about your problem. Join professional forums and reach out to HR professionals on LinkedIn. Receiving this support and guidance will not only reduce your stress, but it will also make you better at your job.

Professional help is always an option

The above are all solid ways of tackling stress, but if you are feeling overwhelmed it might be time to see a professional. There are many local health care experts, such as therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists, who are trained specifically to help you work through your stress. We also offer a professionally-curated online library of mental health resources that cover stress and anxiety in great detail. You can access all of it by signing into your LifeSpeak account. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, simply have your HR team reach out to us.