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Jan 7, 2013

I was talking with the COO of a busy consulting firm who told me her husband had recently had a heart attack.

While they were in the hospital waiting to see the cardiologist, she pulled out her BlackBerry to return an urgent email. The doctor walked in, saw her phone and said, “Do you know those things have increased my cardiology business by 40 percent?

Stress has real, physiological implications. It can contribute to stroke, heart attacks, depression, infections, back pain, drug use, exhaustion and more. From a work perspective, stress can lead to mistakes, lackluster performance, and strained relationships.

9 suggestions to ease workplace stress

A few months back we asked our LinkedIn group to share their advice on managing stress. In the end, we had close to 50 unique ideas. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Create tomorrow’s to do list the night before and then prioritize. Identify the day’s top three priorities and keep coming back to these until they are complete.
  2. Sketch out your tasks according to blocks of time. This keeps you from putting more on your to-do list than is possible to complete.
  3. Put your own oxygen mask on first. When stress levels are high, personal wellness takes a hit. Don’t let yours suffer. Get some sleep. Carve out time for exercise. Eat what your body needs, not what’s convenient. And breath! In and out. Deeply. Until you feel grounded again.
  4. Delegate and outsource. If you teach someone how to do something, you free up time for other projects — both personally and professionally. And, it helps you both grow and develop your skills.
  5. Protect the time of day when you are most productive. Are you a lark or an owl? Can you schedule your work time accordingly?
  6. Make values-based decisions. Be intentional about identifying the highest priorities in your life. Realize you can’t be everything to everyone all the time. Make tough decisions. Turn down assignments if your workload is too large. Say no to personal commitments that don’t align with your values.
  7. De-clutter. Getting rid of extra things often makes room for new ideas. Try establishing a clean desk habit. Clear your desk at the end of the day to focus and keep a clear mind. Clean desk habits also support “hot desk” or “hoteling” environments in which multiple mobile employees share reservable workspaces.
  8. Change your scenery. If you don’t have a clean desk, you might find that simply moving your workspace for a few hours can help improve focus and creativity. Reserve a conference room, if that’s allowed.
  9. Tap into your network. You might need some extra help to reevaluate work processes, trim waste, and change your habits. Ask a mentor, friend, or coworker to help you identify overwork issues and hold you accountable.

Making a resolution to reduce stress is easy, but taking action is where people get stuck. Plan which actions you are going to take to reduce stress and what accountability tools you’ll put in place to get there.

Then, take action. Keep perspective, and focus on the things that matter most in your life.

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