Monday, March 11, 2013

Three Questions to Reframe Your Workplace Stress

Are you feeling stressed at work? If you are, you're not alone. According to a survey released last Tuesday by the American Psychological Association, 65% of Americans say their jobs stress them out. Nearly a third of workers feel their jobs interfere with work-life balance, and the same number find it difficult to advance internally.

There are gender discrepancies as well: more women than men feel that they are not adequately paid for the time they put in (38% vs. 27%) and that their employers do not help them properly handle their stress (31% vs. 27%). With the negative health consequences of stress are well documented, it's clear that changes need to be made.

Stress is a state of being, however, and not actually caused by an event itself (if my car gets stolen, I will be significantly more stressed than you would be). Easy to understand, difficult to practice.

Difficult, but not impossible. Career coaches such as me help our clients process stress in their lives frequently, focusing on the doing as well as the being. Try on these coaching questions to help you get a better handle on your stress and shift to a more productive perspective:

What is your stress trying to tell you? By seeing stress as a messenger, you can have a conversation with it, learning about why it has arrived and what - at a deeper level - it wants you to know. The approach can seem unusual...but what you learn powerful.

What do you want to celebrate about your stress? To be used with care between a trusting coach and client, this question creates a shift from anger, frustration, and helplessness to gratitude and creativity. Practicing gratitude is a powerful method of cultivating self-esteem and resiliency.

What would it be like to quit? I like this question because it shakes people up. "Quit? Why, if I quit I would..." and then you fill in those consequences: good or bad. It's a reminder that - no matter what - we have power and choice in our lives. It's up to us to determine how to use it.

We oftentimes view workplace stress as a condition that we have to do something about, which is true. But our response is much more effective when tempered with knowledge and some self-exploration.

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