Tips for Career and Stress Management in the Workplace: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

In my view, stress and career management are central to the lives of most people. Given below are some tips that make sense to me. Take them with good humor and make up some of your own.

1. Make friends with your Boss. Research shows that bosses can be a major source of workplace stress. According to Professor Hochwater and his doctoral students, who conducted a study on bad bosses, “Employees stuck in an abusive relationship experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust.”

2. Laughing can break up an otherwise negative mental state. Humor plays a big role in our seeing things in perspective. Keep a book of good jokes handy at the workplace and flip through it now and then. Make friends with funny co-workers. They are all around you. When things get difficult, go talk to them and ask them to make you laugh. You will be surprised at the comedic talent available in the workplace. From personal experience, after my most uncontrollable laughs, I have felt much better and rejuvenated afterwards.

3. Assess your skills and abilities in terms of long term goals. Enhance these further through education and training, particularly if your company is willing to pay for it. Many organizations these days pay for their employees getting an advanced degree like an MBA. Higher level of training and education will allow you take charge of your career and make you more marketable. People experience more anxiety and stress when they feel things are not in their control and that they have limited options.

4. Be alert to opportunities around you both within and outside the workplace and take advantage of them. Bite only as much as you can chew and do not say yes to too many workplace projects. It will scatter your energy and leave you exhausted. However, success in fewer and even smaller projects will give you confidence as well as an enhanced professional reputation among your co-workers.

5. Take one or two 10 minutes walks during the workday. I find short walks, or even climbing up and down the stairs several times during the day to be very useful for me. Lunch is a good time for walking. You can walk outside in the fresh air and then come back and eat a light, balanced, and nutritious lunch. I wish I could take my own advice more often! When I can though, I find that walking and deep yogic breathing can do wonders for creativity, energy level, and the general elevation of mood.

6. I find that drinking enough plain water during the workday is very helpful to me. If I drink too much tea or coffee as substitutes for water, it creates physiological symptoms of stress such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and just more nervous energy than I need. Students who drink too much tea and coffee before their classes risk the increased possibility of having to take a bathroom break when critical topics are being discussed.

7. Calm and center yourself through meditation and/or prayer several times a day. This is particularly helpful before important presentations and meetings. People listen better, speak more clearly, and in general communicate much more effectively when they are relaxed. If you do not have your own office and feel strange about closing your eyes publicly and just sitting quietly, then go to the bathroom, close the door, and sit there for a few minutes.

What Should Organizations Do?

Organizations should consider incorporating meditation training in their employee wellness programs. Employees who meditate regularly experience greater job satisfaction, improved job performance, are more alert and active, self confident, less irritable, more cooperative with others, and enjoy a greater level of accomplishment.

Organizations also need to be sensitive to the fact that personal problems (divorce, illness in the family, death of a loved one, or other trauma) can temporarily influence the workplace behavior of otherwise good employees. Giving leaves of absence or personals days off with pay to manage such situations can help to reduce the employee stress level.

My Personal Belief

In my view, relaxation and meditation training can be particularly helpful in coping with difficult life or workplace issues. It has been documented in a variety of research settings that meditation and prayer can lead to significant decreases in psychological distress, health complaints, insomnia, and smoking. There is a lot of good information available on stress management in the research literature as well as in popular magazines, and of course on the Internet. Like everything else, one has to be an intelligent consumer of knowledge and use common sense.

Strive and thrive! Do well, and be the best that you can be and leave the rest to the higher power.

Good luck!

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