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Managing Stress in the Workplace

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher stated, “The only thing that is constant is change”. No matter how you live your life you will experience some sort of change. Change comes in many different forms. It may be chosen, like buying a new home or moving to a new state or city. Change can also be forced upon you, like a new law that requires you to wear your seat belt or not talk on the phone while driving a car. There is also change that comes through the natural sequence of life, like a new baby or a passing of a relative. Although it’s experienced in different ways change can add unwanted stress and anxiety. 

Let’s focus on the stress of change that comes through your work environment. Often this change can feel like the “forced” change listed above. 

The problem with change is that we as human beings enjoy consistency and reliability. We create habits and procedures that help us minimize the change that happens daily. Our natural being fights the idea of change which can cause panic, fear, and stress when it’s experienced. 

So how do we mitigate the stress, panic, and fear that comes from change at work? 

Look forward not back! 

A large portion of stress that comes from change is caused by anxieties of what the new alternative lacks. It challenges our schema. Schema is a mental concept that informs us about what to expect from a variety of experiences and situations. In short, it means when we go to work, we expect certain things to happen. We create procedures and tasks that we expect to take place when we arrive and get ready to work. When change is forced upon us, it can challenge our schema and it can seem abrupt or uncomfortable. We need to learn to process the change so it creates progress and not stress or discomfort. 

  1. Take some time to reflect on change. If you’re being asked to change a procedure or implement a new system at work. Take a moment to consume the request and reflect on what this means for you. It will change the outlay of work, but will that change be negative? 
  1. Ask a lot of questions. Addressing concerns with change right away mitigates the tension and stress that builds up from the “unknown.” 
  1. Try to catch the vision. Requests for changes are not attempts to cause mayhem in your life. Change requests are made in hopes to advance the current position of the company or attempt to simplify a procedure for the long term. One of my motto’s is “More work today, should equate to less busy work tomorrow”. Meaning if we’re constantly putting out fires and never take the time to figure out why they started in the first place, we will always be fighting the same fires.  
  1. Don’t look back. Many times, we create our own stress by committing partially and then when implementation doesn’t go smoothly, we revert to old procedures that have “proven” to work. The problem with this situation is that you create a hybrid change. This hybrid may help you put out the fire but creates added stress as you try to manage demands to implement the change and create results that are consistent and clear. 
  1. Be an advocate for change. Don’t wait for change to be forced upon you. Be looking for ways to implement change as you do your work. If you are looking to make improvements, you will begin to identify shortcomings in the current procedures. This alleviates the discomfort of change when it finally happens because the change is not a surprise.  

When the next change item is requested at work don’t let it dictate the level of stress in your life. Try using these steps and embrace change. Your stress levels will decrease, and you will find excitement in implementing new and progressive habits at work.  

Andrew Page is the Controller at Health West. He ‘s been with company for a year and a half and enjoys spending his time outdoors.  

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