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Stressed At Work, But What Is The Cause?

You may be feeling stressed at work or in your business but you don't know what to do about it. Some stress can be good for you however too much stress can negatively impact your performance at work (as well as your personal life).

You may be experiencing symptoms of stress including physical signs (e.g. food cravings, headaches, panic attacks etc.), emotional symptoms (e.g. feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration etc.) and behavioural changes (e.g. indecision, disturbed sleep, inability to concentrate etc.). If you just focus on these symptoms and treat them you may get short term relief but your stress is unlikely to go away.

In order to reduce stress and feel better you need to understand the root causes of your stress and take action to address these causes. Sometimes the cause of your stress is self evident, but often it is not easy to identify. Here are some ideas to try to enable you to identify the causes of your stress:

Consider recent changes. A good starting point is to think about recent changes that have happened at work, in your business and in your personal life. This may give you some idea as to what is causing your stress (e.g. your company has been taken over, you have moved to a new role, you have lost a major client, one of your key managers has resigned etc.).

Think about internal and external influences. The cause of your stress may not be something that has directly impacted you or that is within your control, so consider other factors as well, both internal and external (e.g. the state of the economy, the politics in your company, a new competitor etc.).

Consider the time you first noticed you were feeling stressed. Think back to when you first noticed you were getting stressed and consider what was happening then (e.g. an increase in customer complaints, your reporting line changed, a new investor came on board etc.).

Understand when you are getting stressed. Think about the times when you are getting stressed as this may give clues as to the cause of your stress (e.g. before dealing with a particular person, before making a presentation, when you think of the financial results etc.)

Each time you start to feel stressed ask yourself why. When you are feeling stressed or anxious ask yourself what is causing you to feel this way and notice what you are thinking about at the time (e.g. you feel out of control, you don't have a business plan, you are worrying about what the Managing Director will think etc.).

Delve deeper. You may need to keep challenging the causes of stress you identify to see if they are really the actual causes. Ask what about this is causing me to feel stressed? (e.g. you think that writing the monthly board report is causing you to get stressed when actually it is the thought of dealing with a particularly awkward director in the board meeting etc.).

Explore what is making you feel the most stressed. Consider which of the potential causes is making you feel the most stressed (e.g. the business is growing too fast for you to manage effectively, your cash flow is in a dire state, the prospect of being made redundant etc.)

Identify which causes are coming up most frequently. Think about which potential causes are coming up the most frequently (e.g. your work life balance is a constant issue, work relationships with your team, profitability is below the shareholder's expectations etc.)

Rank all the different potential causes identified. You should now have a number of potential causes of your stress. Rank these in order of importance to you i.e. from the ones making you the most stressed to the ones making you the least stressed. This will help you to decide what to work on first.

Start taking action and get to the root causes of your stress. The next step is to take action to address the causes of your stress (e.g. if the cause of your stress is being overloaded with work, you may delegate some of your work). Start with the most stressful causes first and identify actions that will help with these. If the result of the action is that you feel less stressed then you have probably found a cause of your stress. However you may find that what you thought was the root cause of your stress is not (e.g. you try delegating some of your work but you still feel as stressed, you consider it some more and you realise the issue is that you are getting bogged down in the detail and not taking time out to reflect on your work and decide what you should be focusing on). You may have to try different actions and revisit what really is the cause of your stress.

Seek outside help. When you are feeling very stressed it can be difficult to think through issues rationally so you may want to get help to understand the causes of your stress, decide and take action to reduce stress and to support you in moving forward to a better place.

Hopefully you now have an approach to try if you are feeling stressed but don't know what is causing it.

Author: Liz Makin
Published: January 2013

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Through Makin It Happen - Coaching, Mentoring & Stress Management, Liz Makin provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals. If you are looking for a business coach, business mentor or help with stress please contact Liz on 01780 765270 or email Liz@makinithappen.co.uk to arrange a free consultation session.


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Please call Liz on 01780 765270 or email Liz@makinithappen.co.uk
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by Liz Makin

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