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Managing pressure at work

For many people, being part of the business world comes at a substantial personal cost: stress. “It’s a high stress job,” people often say, as if this testifies to the position’s prestige. For people whose ability to cope is at crisis point, however, stress is no longer a matter of bravado. For them, stress is a serious problem that can have far-reaching consequences. To avoid reaching this point, stress must be managed.

What You Need to Know
My supervisor gets a real buzz from being under pressure and so assumes I do too.
However, I much prefer working in a calmer environment. Is there a way we can work well together?
This happens frequently, but the good news is that your differing styles can actually complement each other. Raise the subject with your boss and suggest that you discuss and create a plan of action. You may still find it easiest to limit your contact with your boss while working on joint projects, however.
I enjoy working under pressure, but it is starting to affect my relationships with others. What should I do?
It can be true that a hovering deadline gives us the adrenaline boost we need to get a job done well and promptly, but if working in this way becomes a habit, it’s easy for it to become the norm. While people can become very focused in such an environment, other areas of their lives, such as time spent with friends and family, may be neglected. Their heath may also suffer as a result. In the long term, pressure should not have a permanent place in anyone’s working life, but if you feel it is becoming part of your organization’s preferred way of working, flag it up.

How do I exploit the benefits of pressure while diminishing the downside?
Pressure can raise our performance, but sometimes at the detriment of other factors, such as relationships. Under pressure, some people become highly task-oriented, focusing on immediate areas. Others become very short-term oriented. Explore what happens to you, seek feedback, and evaluate whether you believe there is an issue or not. The earlier you recognize it, the easier it is to ensure that the negative impact of pressure is alleviated.

What to Do
Know the Symptoms of Stress

It is important to be able to distinguish between pressure and stress. Pressure is motivating, stimulating, and energizing. But when pressure exceeds our ability to cope, stress is produced. Sustained high levels of stress can, at worst, result in illness, depression, or even nervous breakdown. However, there are a number of warning signs that can help you determine when your level of stress is bordering on dangerous.
Take a good look at your well-being. If you experience some of the following behavioral and physical symptoms on a frequent or near-constant basis, it can indicate that you have crossed the line between healthy pressure and harmful stress.

Behavioural symptoms
· Constant irritability with people
· Difficulty in making decisions
· Loss of sense of humor
· Suppressed anger
· Difficulty concentrating
· Inability to finish one task before rushing into another
· Feeling the target of other people’s animosity
· Feeling unable to cope
· Wanting to cry at the smallest problem
· Lack of interest in doing things after returning home from work
· Waking up in the morning and feeling tired after an early night
· Constant tiredness

Physical symptoms
· Lack of appetite
· Craving for food when under pressure
· Frequent indigestion or heartburn
· Constipation or diarrhea
· Insomnia
· Tendency to sweat for no good reason
· Nervous twitches or nail biting
· Headaches
· Cramps and muscle spasms
· Nausea
· Breathlessness without exertion
· Constant tiredness
· Fainting spells
· Impotency or frigidity
· Eczema

Identify Sources of Stress in the Workplace
If you feel that you are not coping well with the everyday pressures at work, creating an action plan to cut down (or cut out altogether) excess pressure is the next sensible step. To do that, identify the sources of workplace stress you face. For example, it could be that you’re struggling with some of the following:
· Trouble with client/customer
· Too much travel
· Having to work late
· Constant people interruptions
· Conflict with organizational goals
· Trouble with boss
· Job interfering with home/family life
· Deadlines and time pressures
· Overflowing in-box
· Telephone interruptions
· Difficult decision-making
· Dealing with the bureaucracy at work
· Not enough stimulating things to do
· Too many meetings
· Trouble with co-workers
· Uncertainty about career direction
· Worried about job security
· Too much responsibility
· Unsupportive spouse/partner
· Too many jobs to do at once
· Long commute

In addition to these potential daily hassles, there are, of course, more significant problem areas. These may include coping with lay-offs, dealing with a bullying boss, or trying to cope with a dysfunctional corporate culture that demands excessive working hours or employs an autocratic management style.

Strive for Work-Life Balance
Managing pressure is often about achieving some balance between work and the rest of your life. It is usually in the workplace that we are most susceptible to pressure, but it can also stem from a home or social environment. Avoid allowing work to become the central focus of your life. For example, take advantage of your vacation time, exercise regularly, and maintain relationships with friends and family. Practicing hobbies and interests that help you to “turn off” is also very useful. If necessary, raise concerns with your manager.

NEXT WEEK: UNDERSTANDING CAUSES OF PRESSURE
Source BNET: Courtesy of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica
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