Dealing With Personal and Professional Stress

How to handle stressful situations.

How to handle stressful situations

More than half of Americans—58 percent—say work is a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives, according to the latest study from the American Psychological Association.

of Americans say work is a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives.

-American Psychological Association

According to a study by Harvard Business School Professor Joel Goh, increased stress in the workplace is responsible for up to $190 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs.

Fortunately, employer-sponsored work-life balance initiatives are becoming more commonplace.

If your employer doesn't offer one, the following strategies for dealing with stress may help you meet the demands of both your personal and professional life.

Focus on Fulfillment

  • Determine your most important priorities.
    Be prepared to let some things go, instead of obsessing about perfection.
  • Start planning and “bundling.”
    Complete repetitive tasks or like tasks at the same time. For example, prepare all of your meals for the week on a Sunday. Run all of your errands once a week instead of making several trips.
  • Decide what’s a worthwhile investment of your time.
    You may think you’re too busy for a vacation or exercise class, but consider the benefit: If you take a break, will you be more focused on what you need to accomplish afterwards?
  • Be more mindful.
    Instead of focusing on worrying about the past or the future, find a way to be present in the moment, which can help you feel fulfilled. Meditation, exercise, gardening, creating something—they’re all ways to clear your head.
  • Find out what your triggers are.
    What upsets you? What turns events into stressful situations? By becoming more aware of the things that cause you anxiety, you can respond in a more productive way.

Maryanne Honeycutt Elliott

“It’s really about work-life fulfillment—balance doesn’t exist. Some days are going to be harder than others. It’s all about figuring out how we can manage that day and finding satisfaction in the different roles we play—as employees, parents, spouses, etc.”

- Maryanne Honeycutt Elliott

UofL Professional Development instructor and executive coach

Staying Focused at Work

  • Communicate.
    Encountering stress in the workplace can cause some people to withdraw. When you don’t speak up, you increase the risk of blowing up.
  • Prioritize—with a little help.
    Talk to your boss, stakeholders, your spouse—anyone who can help you set reasonable goals for your workload.
  • Manage proactively.
    Speak with your manager to clarify priorities and roles. Keeping quiet during stressful situations may seem like it’s preserving your credibility, but consider the damage that can be caused by missing deadlines or producing lackluster work.
  • Figure out what distracts you and fix it.
    Do phone calls or emails constantly cause you to lose focus? Turn off your ringer and other notifications to avoid that source of stress. Check your email and voicemail at designated times throughout the day.
  • Work in time blocks.
    Once you’ve identified your distractions, determine how you can work on a project or task for a designated interruption-free amount of time. Build in a specific break. Can you hold several meetings in a row, rather than spreading those appointments throughout the week?
  • Set no more than one to three goals per day.
    Put them on your calendar and force yourself to estimate the time it will take you to accomplish them. You can’t realistically block your calendar for an entire day or week, but you can anchor your week or day with priorities. Try setting aside 30 minutes for your highest priority each day.

Looking for More Tips on Dealing with Stress in the Workplace?

UofL Professional Development offers a one-day seminar, How to Stay Focused in Stressful Times. Register online or call 502.852.4620 for additional information.

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