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Rebecca Schalm“Every day is a new day.” At no time in recent memory has this phrase been more poignant.

The situation has gone from one of sudden, unexpected crisis to that of chronic, daily stress. It is emotionally and psychologically exhausting.

In the workplace, the pressure to make good decisions and produce good results has never been more intense. Some of us may be a little out of practice – easy economic times provided us all with a little additional cover. To successfully emerge on the other side of this healthy and intact, we all need to hone our ability to manage our stress at work.

How do you deal with stress? We all have different ways of reacting to stressful situations. Stress does not show us at our best. If you feel like you are struggling to cope, you are probably not alone. The first step is to know yourself and know how you react – do you struggle to concentrate? Get emotional? Blame others when things go wrong?

Once you know how you respond to stress, you will be able to build a strategy to cope with it successfully. People are watching. Make sure how you behave in these times does not become career-limiting.


“I struggle to be productive – I lack focus and energy”


Now is the time to deploy every organizing technique you have ever learned:

  • Prioritize
  • Focus on one thing at a time and give it a dedicated effort
  • Schedule regular breaks in your day to help maintain focus
  • Focus on a task when it motivates you
  • Keep lists on paper, not in your head


“I’m having a hard time making decisions”


There is a difference between a good decision-making process and a bad outcome, and a bad decision

  • Make sure you have the right decision-making process in place
  • Set clear deadlines for when a decision needs to be made
  • It is okay to take your time to gather information and evaluate options
  • Partner with others to talk through alternatives and their implications
  • Give yourself a break – you won’t make the right decision every time


“I tend to react emotionally – I can take it out on other people even though I don’t mean to”


When stress builds up it can surface quickly and unexpectedly.

  • Be vigilant. People will not soon forget how you treat them.
  • Make a note of the people, issues or situations that are most likely to trigger your reactions – be hyper-aware when these conditions are in place
  • Find outlets for your anxiety – for many this means activities like exercise or meditation
  • When it happens, acknowledge it, take ownership for it and apologize


“I get paranoid – do they want to get rid of me?”


It is time for you to get things out in the open.

  • Ask questions. You may not always get answers, but it is important others know you are concerned
  • If you have genuine questions about your performance, now is the time to ask for feedback
  • Manage your need for reassurance. Asking questions is healthy; asking for reinforcement on a daily basis is not.
  • Quell your desire to listen to rumors
  • Focus on doing your job to the best of your ability


“I’m not sure about my future here. Maybe it is time to start looking.”


Economic crises stimulate job search behaviour. If you are pondering a change you are not alone. Be aware of the downside:

  • To justify voluntarily leaving an employer you have to find faults. This can unfairly increase your level of dissatisfaction.
  • You can lose motivation to perform – and this is not the time to be seen as a slacker.
  • Changing jobs is one of the top 5 most stressful life events. Be sure this is the time you want to add that stress to your life.
  • Be realistic – evaluate your job options and the job market – is this the right time to be looking for another job?
  • If you are working in a situation that is intolerable, this is not the time to abandon your plans to leave. Take control over situations you can change.

Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions.

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