As the workforce continues to experience heightened levels of stress (whether it be at work, at home, or a combination of both), the ability to effectively handle pressure is key to successful leadership, time management, planning, interpersonal communication, change management, and goal achievement. If ignored or left unchecked, stress can lead to a decrease in job performance, efficiency, and an individual’s overall mental health, as well as increase the chance of employee burnout. Knowing that conflict, challenge, and change may be inevitable at work, being able to identify when we are feeling overwhelmed and how to respond in a positive way is a key skill for all leaders and employees.
External vs. Internal Pressures
In a study completed by The American Institute of Stress, forty-six percent of workers said their workload is the cause of their stress; twenty percent said it was caused by juggling work and their personal lives; six percent said it was due to lack of job security; and twenty-eight percent said it was related to people issues. Pressure or stress can be positive or negative, good or bad, welcomed or undesired, pleasant or painful. Most of the pressure we feel can be put into two categories: external and internal.
- External pressures are those that occur in our environment and may be beyond our immediate control, such as changes at work, deadlines, or production requirements.
- Internal pressures are those we personally create. They increase our anxiety levels, negative attitudes, unhelpful thinking, and poor use of time. Internally created stress and pressure is often overlooked or ignored or explained away as, “that’s just the way I am.”
Regardless of the source of your stress, here are eight strategies to help you reduce the potential for stress and/or increase your ability to handle it more effectively:
1. Prioritize your tasks.
- Take ten minutes each day to prioritize and organize the things you need to accomplish.
- Be proactive about the things that cause pressure and stress rather than waiting for those things to become a problem for you.
2. Break tasks or projects into small steps.
- If a project or goal seems overwhelming or unmanageable, break it down into a step-by-step plan so you can focus your energy on accomplishing one thing at a time.
- You’ll also want to try to minimize interruptions whenever possible.
3. Seek support.
- Find ways to involve, engage, and delegate to others to reduce the workload and help you achieve a goal.
- Finding support of any kind can help you build strong relationships and manage pressure and stress.
4. Be willing to compromise.
- Adjust goals if you need to so you can commit to doing what you know you can realistically complete.
- It is important to be practical and allow yourself enough time to do the things you need to do.
5. Recognize when you are stressed or under pressure.
- Identify your response to high-pressure situations and find ways to remind yourself to find a sense of calm so you can reassess the situation objectively.
- You might find it helpful to practice deep breathing or relaxation techniques.
6. Don’t try to control things that are beyond your control.
- Focus on the things you can control, like your reaction to situations that cause you personal stress or pressure.
7. Change your mindset.
- Stop and evaluate how you are responding.
- Find some quiet time to breathe, think, and ask yourself why you are feeling so much pressure.
- Evaluate a situation that is causing pressure instead of letting your emotions control you. Then, focus on how to improve the situation.
8. Take time for self-care.
- Our physiological and psychological condition plays a role in how we respond to pressure.
- Nutrition, physical fitness, and self-maintenance can add to or detract from our ability to bounce back from stress and pressure.
Don’t let pressure build to a breaking point. Be mindful and more attuned to your stress levels so you can address and manage them appropriately. As you implement the best practices mentioned above and identify other strategies of your own, you can be a greater asset to your team and organization by calmly navigating and leading others through high-pressure situations. For more resources on personal and leadership development, check out our website, www.cmoe.com.