We’ve all been there at some point

Stress isn’t fun, there’s a point before the un-fun stage of stress that seems to help make us a little more productive. Everyone needs a mechanism for dealing with it else they will just get overwhelmed at some point and then enters the not so fun side of stress.

It was a few years back when I had my first stress related incident, working on a project trying to get a delivery done by a certain time, working some 15 hour days to help get it done. What did it take for all the stress to build up and make me break as a person? Just one project manager being an arse, insisting that more is done and we should work longer hours; he was so out of touch with the amount of effort that was already going in. I had to walk out of that meeting I was in tears within 30 paces, I punched one of those cubical divide things as I was walking past (the cap on the top flew off and hit the ceiling which drew a little more attention than needed!) and I ended in the toilets sobbing like a child. Welcome to stress.

Identifying stress

I had no idea I was getting stressed, it was sort of like a ninja attack one minuet fine, the next blubbering wreck. HowStuffWorks is pretty good for this. In short, everything stresses us out, everything. Not being able to go to toilet, not being able to meet up with a friend, having coffee, not having coffee and so on. So identifying what causes stress is quite straight forward… Everything. As the article say’s, you can’t always remove the stress but you can reduce them.

After my “episode” I spent some time thinking about what really tipped the balance for me, I looked at what was going on at home and work, what was different about the work I was doing now to 6 months ago and so on. For me it seems what triggers the most stress is not being able to do what people expect of me, the normal day to day work is fine and project work is fine. Probably worth mentioning that before my “episode” there was two of us on the project doing the same sort of things, unfortunately my colleague had just been signed off with stress as well, so my work load doubled and it was already pretty high. This was another contributing factor, not because I had to pick up my colleagues work but because my colleague wasn’t there to share the mumbling about the project which helps reduce stress.

So if you find your self stressing try and identified what’s changed, it may not be one thing it could be a combination of things causing it, but as with most things until you know what is causing it you can’t do much to fix it.

Dealing with stress

I use to deal with stress by putting a very clear boundary between work and home, I go into work typically between 7:30 and 8am and leave normally around 6pm with the occasional desertion from work from 3pm onwards if I can. when things get too busy and I start noticing I’m beginning to get stressed I tend to start brining the hours in, I start making sure I do my contractual hours more so than the hours I typically do. Likewise I don’t take work home with me, I very rarely do work in the evening or at weekends unless it’s something I want to do like a special project I kicked off.

So the clear boundaries help separate the stressy part of the day from the non stressy, reducing the stress caused by work.

The other, and the most important thing is to stop caring about the work, yes it’s important, yes it needs to be done, but it’s not all on you, you are not the only person involved in this, it’s a team game. This helps reduce the worrying element of trying to get it out and takes some of the self imposed pressure off of you, you do need to care about the quality of the work you do, but not so much what that work is.

The other most useful step is asking for help, I use to be very bad at asking for help; even at school I was being told to ask for more help and the same goes for work. Last time I had a look I wasn’t wearing my underpants on top of my trousers, or had a big ‘S’ on my chest within a shield, or was a fictional comic book hero, I’m assuming you aren’t either. By asking for help you may get some, you may not; but you stand a better chance than not asking at all.

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