Feeling stressed at work: What helps?

One of the biggest reasons for my crash 3 weeks ago was the stress I felt in my new job. I had been looking forward to it for so long and when reality set in I felt that I had so much to prove that I forgot any and all of my ground rules for coping.

Don’t get me wrong: adjusting to a new job is always going to be stressful. But, as I stated in my previous post, I had lost my way a bit and it only came back to me over the last 3 weeks where I had gone wrong.

Here is how to make it right:

1. Clarify your role

Overall, this was my biggest mistake. I went into the job with an idea of what I was supposed to do, based on past experiences with people who have done the job before me. What I had forgotten was that every workplace operates differently. In fact, it only dawned on me yesterday that this is what I have done. I have fought battles that didn’t need fighting, over and over and getting nowhere, because what I thought I should do was not what was actually needed of me.

My role, in this place, is different and in the future I will be able to choose more carefully what I will expend energy on.

2. Talk

When you experience stress, it can make you feel completely isolated from everyone else. Talking to others about what you’re going through will help you establish whether it is just you who is feeling this way. In the vast majority of cases, others will experience similar feelings to your own. They may have different coping strategies or they may be able to share with you how they have made their lives easier. If you don’t talk, you will never know. Bear in mind that talking does not necessarily mean moaning. Having a moan, occasionally, is a good thing, but aim to keep it constructive. Ask ‘how do you’ instead of saying  ‘I just don’t know how to’.

3. No really, talk

Sometimes, it is necessary to take the talking further. By that, I mean talking to your superiors. I talked to my boss when it was too late and in hindsight I wish I’d plucked up the courage to do this a lot earlier. It is laughable how easy some of the solutions were, once it was all actually out in the open. Most of the time, I have realised, your superiors, too, are very busy with what is going on directly in their own roles and as a result won’t know if you struggle, or why – unless you actually tell them. Again, keep it constructive. Once you have figured out what is upsetting you, think about workable solutions, which will benefit everyone. Talk about those solutions with your superiors. Not all of them may be possible to adapt, but some could make a big difference to you, going forward. And if they cannot be incorporated, you will have a much better idea why.

4. Carve a little niche for yourself

One of the biggest challenges for any employee when it comes to workplace happiness is the feeling of autonomy. If you constantly feel like decisions are being made for you, it is easy to become demotivated. But in every workplace, there is something you can do, which will make you stand out (positively!), which can become your ‘thing’ and give you a tiny little bit of control back. I knew what my ‘thing’ was going to be before I started, but I became so bogged down with other issues that I have pushed it further and further back in my mind and, in a way, lost track of where I was going. A niche gives you a sense of freedom, a sense of achievement, something others will recognise you for and which will make you indispensable. I have now used my time to regain my sense of control and to work on my own niche.

5. Have a long-term plan

My long-term plan over the past 2 years has been to get the job I am in now. I had an aim and I worked hard for it, identifying the steps I needed to take, which would polish my CV up to the standard needed to become what I wanted to be. It gave me something to focus on when times got hard, a reason to keep on working and persevere through the more challenging times. Now I have reached that aim, I have become a little lost as to where I am going next.

In a way, I am still working on this, simply, because I am not entirely sure what I want to do with my life. Going forward, I have two options, both equally appealing, but for different reasons, but both would require a different approach to my work. Having just one plan is important. Not only does it mean you will fully focus on the steps needed to reach your goal, but the lack of a plan B (whilst risky) also adds urgency – positive stress, which helps you persevere through the rougher patches. And the funny thing is, as I am writing this, I may just have figured out which way will be mine…

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