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Stress test: Are you victim or master?

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in Workplace Communication

Stress may be inevitable, and it can be a positive force. But your ability to keep from burning out is important not just for your productivity in the office but your physical health, as well.

Check your resilience and coping strategies with this test.

Do you:

Recognize when you're under stress? Check whether the muscles in your neck and shoulders are tense and whether your breathing is shallow. Also, headaches, upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, inability to concentrate and short temper all can signal stress problems.

Pinpoint the source of stress? Explaining it away by saying "Life is stressful" or "Work is supposed to be stressful" blocks you from changing the situations that cause your stress. If stress feels constant, start logging it to narrow down the source.

Submit your worries to a reality check? Bottom line: Most of the things you worry about will never happen, and you can probably figure a way to deal with those that do.

Slow down? Avoid the temptation to speed through your work—risking mistakes—when the pressure is on.

Remove yourself from stressful situations? If you can't take a true break, at least stop and count to 10.

In one study, people who stopped to read a magazine reduced their stress levels compared to those who persisted at trying to solve a puzzle. Another group, which consisted of nonmusicians playing simple instruments, reduced their stress levels twice as much as magazine readers.

Exercise authority? The more control you exert over your work situation, the lower the stress. Ask your boss for the leeway to handle assignments in a way you design, as long as you achieve the desired results.

Let go? Each time you re-tell the story of a stressful situation, you relive it a bit. Focus on the future, not what when wrong.

Practice relaxation techniques? You don't have to strike a yoga pose in your cubicle. Deep, abdominal breathing can calm you within seconds.

Prevent stress and protect yourself? You know the good habits that will bolster your health and make you stronger to face your stress. Quit using stress as an excuse for living on caffeine and sugar and never making time to exercise.

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