Choosing a career that fuels your health, happiness and professional success requires ongoing awareness of your stress level and how to manage it. These stress tests, tips, ideas, and exercises from Jordan Friedman, the Stress Coach, are designed to help you find a job, stay happy at work, and enjoy your time off.
The Stress-Success Traffic Jam
Constant, unwanted stress creates work and personal traffic jams that make it more difficult, and sometimes impossible, for you to get where you want to go - whether those destinations are good grades, finding an internship, performing well on the job, building strong relationships, or just feeling good.
First, we’ll look at four important intersections where stress blocks success. Then, we’ll explore stress management strategies that will open the road so you can reach your goals.
1. Planning and Performance
Whether you’re trying to thoughtfully analyze your career options, develop a project timeline, or even write a grocery list, would you rather do so in the middle of a hurricane when you have to deal with high winds and huge waves tossing you around? Or would it be better to plan before the storm where it’s clear and quiet and calm?
When you’re less stressed, it’s easier to process information, think strategically and creatively, remember things, and solve problems—and these are all important tools for school, work, and career success.
When you’re less stressed, you are better able to…
- Process information
- Think strategically and creatively
- Remember things
- Solve problems
2. Knowing and Living Your Values
You’ve probably learned that identifying and being true to your values is vital to being happy and successful in school, work, and life. But you may not realize that knowing your values is also critical to effective stress management because when you engage in work and activities that work against your values, it creates mind friction or stress.
For example, if one of your values and passions is volunteering, but you’re in a job or situation that doesn’t give you the time or support to do so, it can create a constant source of stress.
Let your values guide you on your path to a rewarding career. Start by listing what’s important to you in your work life. Maybe it’s clear communication about expectations, decision-making freedom, a flexible schedule and work location, support for wellness and stress reduction, feeling that your work is having a positive impact on others, or any other value.
Based on what you know about an employer and position you’re considering, evaluate how well they will support your values as a way of determining whether an organization and job is a good match for you. Seeking career opportunities, projects, and relationships that support your values is a vital ingredient in your personal and professional well-being. To discover your values, refer back to CareerAdvisor’s values tab.
Identifying and working with your values…
- Boosts your spirit
- Supports your mission
- Reduces your stress
- Builds your brand
3. Handling Interviews
Successful interviews are vital to landing internships and jobs. Interviews are also stressful because you usually feel pressured to make the best impression possible.
There are a lot of interview stress reduction strategies that you can employ—even before you leave for an interview—things such as researching your interviewers and the interview environment to reduce the unknown, which is a big source of stress.
Reducing interview stress can make you a calmer, more confident interviewee who communicates your goals and talent more clearly. It also will demonstrate your ability to perform under pressure. For interviewing preparation tips, refer to CareerAdvisor’s interview profile tab.
Reducing interview stress…
- Builds your confidence
- Allows clearer communication
- Demonstrates strong performance under pressure
4. Building Relationships and Your Personal Brand
It’s a fact that most of us prefer to hang out and work with people who are not stressed out all the time and who don’t blow off a lot of secondhand stress—that is they don’t cause those around them to be stressed out by how they act and what they say. Do you want your brand to be known as “Stressed Out So Stay Away From Me?
Your stress level and how you come off as a result of it have a direct impact on your relationships, opportunities for advancement, and the power of your brand.
Successfully managing your stress…
- Improves relationships and makes others want to be around you
- Attracts opportunities for advancement
- Powers your personal brand
Stress Management Strategies
Below are a series of stress management strategies and tips that can help you navigate the intersections we just reviewed.
Tip #1: Stress Busting Shots
Quick! What are the one or two things you need every day to help you deal with hassles and stressful surprises, no matter their source? Did you say, “8 hours of sleep,” “go for a run,” “meditate,” or “call a friend?” Whatever you first uttered are things you should work hard to make happen. These stress-busting shots will help inoculate you from fatigue, frustration, mistakes, feeling overwhelmed and many other stress symptoms.
Popular stress-busting shots can include:
- Enough hours of sleep each night
- Hanging with friends
- Hanging with family
- Video games
- Taking a bath/shower
- Creative writing
Tip #2: Check your dashboard
Your body is like a car. When it’s not running smoothly or needs some sort of repair, it lets you know—just like a vehicle’s dashboard indicator lights tell its driver to get gas, add water, or fill the tires. Are you aware when your body’s dashboard indicators light up, and do you take action to prevent eye strain from becoming a headache, fatigue from leading to poor communication, and worries from sparking a panic episode, for example?
Once or twice an hour, check to see if you are experiencing any of the following stress-fueled symptoms. If you are, try the stress management strategy to the right to prevent a more serious reaction from taking you off the road.
If you're feeling...
Trouble catching breath
Strong cravings for food or a cigarette
Stomach pain or upset
Tip #3: Stress Breakdown:
List the sources of your stress—especially ones that could impact your work and health. Make sure to break down big and hard-to-handle stress blobs like “school,” “my roommate,” or “my job” into a few smaller, more manageable pieces such as meeting due dates, sloppiness, or responding to questions during presentations and interviews. This more granular list will increase your awareness of the stressors you want to start managing and will make it more likely that you’ll manage them. It can also be an important reference as you learn more stress management strategies.
Tip #4: Support Networking
A powerful remedy against corrosive stress build-up is to share your concerns with others, and maybe get some advice in the process. Bottled up frustration, anger, fear, and the like corrode our spirits, and great listeners and supporters in all forms can produce solutions, epiphanies, creativity, and ultimately lower our stress levels.
Considering and cultivating your support network team can come in handy when big stressors call for rapid and reliable assistance. You likely have a network of friends, relatives, counselors, colleagues, and others with whom you could discuss dilemmas and seek support. But how do you know who would be best to reach out to when you need to release some stress? Below is a quick Support Network Screentest that helps answer this question.
Your Support Network: Who Would Be Best?
List your support network candidates and place each of their names in the spaces before each of the following statements. Then note which sentences ring true. Those who score “yes” for all or most of these qualities may make up your best first string of supporters. Keep their names nearby and contact them when their ears and ideas could help you.
____________________________is sincerely interested in my well-being.
____________________________asks me questions about my stressors and concerns.
____________________________remembers from one conversation to the next the basic content of our previous conversation(s).
____________________________respects my confidentiality.
____________________________focuses on my situations and concerns without constantly interjecting his/her own experiences.
After you've done this, it's time to flip the lens. How do you rate when your friends and coworkers call? Put your name before each sentence and see what happens. It’s only fair and hopefully growth-promoting to check our own support skills.
Tip #5: Sleep Enhancers
Stress and poor sleep are best friends. They encourage and feed off of each other, making it harder to focus and feel good. Quality sleep is the ultimate tonic for strengthening our defenses against stress’s unwanted side-effects, not to mention a vital ingredient in immune system health.
Watch these top 10 tips for much better sleep.
Tip #6: Managing Secondhand Stress
Do you rush around like a headless chicken? Do colleagues and companions think that you’re too busy to bother? Are your behaviors behind the wheel, around the house, and on the job potentially harmful to those around you? Secondhand stress results when our stress-fueled actions ignite a stress response in others, and vice versa. Secondhand stress is a big drag on teamwork, relationships, happiness and health. Take the Secondhand Stress Test below to make sure you’re not a hazard to those around you.
Secondhand Stress Test
Take this test to see if you need to do something about secondhand stress:
1. Are you aware when you are visibly stressed out?
2. Does your stress cause you to communicate and behave in ways that are noticeable to colleagues, family, and others?
3. Do you do any of the following when you are stressed out?
- Rush around
- Tailgate or behave aggressively behind the wheel
- Tap your fingers, feet, a pen, silverware, etc.
- Sigh or groan
- Shoot dirty looks, roll your eyes, etc.
- Raise your voice or take a disrespectful tone
- Talk rapidly
- Cut people off and/or finish their sentences
- Forget things that colleagues or family tell you
- Lose things
- Keep your door closed on a regular basis
- Criticize others publicly
4. Have others avoided talking or interacting with you when you’ve been visibly stressed?
5. Has anyone ever suggested that you do something to manage your stress?
Analyze the Results
If you related to any of the statements above, you might consider how your stress impacts your relationships, reputation, and growth potential in your current and future work. Similarly, monitor your secondhand stress reduction efforts to see if they are supporting your goals, especially where impressing and working with others are vital to your success.
© Copyright 2014, Jordan Friedman, The Stress Coach, Inc. Used with permission.