Ways to Combat Personal Stress and Stay Focused at Work

Our personal and work lives have their own seasons of ups and downs.  Sometimes, we encounter smooth sailing and others, we feel like we’ll be torn about by the jagged rocks near the shore.

If things are rough at work, that affects life outside of work and vice versa.  We’ve all faced something life-altering in our personal lives at one time or another.  Maybe one of these scenarios hits close to home for you right now…you or a loved one are dealing with chronic illnesses or cancer, death, addictions, financial, relational or another strife that is unique to you…there are just too unfortunate circumstances to list.

When we go through one of these personal trials, there is no way it won’t impact your work life in a few ways.   Last month, I encountered one of the most difficult struggles of my personal life.  It was downright painful, emotional and strenuous.  It’s frankly just sucked – there is no other way to put it.  While I don’t have all the answers, here are some of the ways I dealt with that situation and the resulting stress in regards to managing my work-life.

Be Honest with Someone at Work

Some trials are easier to be open about than others.  For example, a death of a loved one is usually public knowledge with bereavement leave.

However, it can be difficult to be open about other trials, such as addiction (yours or someone else’s) or relational issues.  You need the support of someone you trust at work to help you get through.  You don’t need to hold it all in or live in your own cubicle island.  Having a “work spouse” to confide in could be the best thing you do for yourself.

For me, I was overwhelmed by the support I received when I told my boss and one of my colleagues once I finally spilled.  A huge wave of relief came over me once the truth was out and knew that I had the help I needed to make it through my work day.

Help Yourself Stay Focused

It’s amazing how easily your mind can wander and you can’t help but think about everything going on outside of work when you’re at work. Here a few things that helped me stay on track and I hope they might help you too.

Be thankful for your job

Choosing to be grateful for our job directly contrasts how ungrateful you are for the trial.  It brings a ray of light, especially when you think about how many people out there are struggling to find steady employment.  Your job also provides a schedule and stability, which also might be in direct contrast to what you’re facing outside of work.

Keep a task list

If your company uses Basecamp or another task management tool, be committed to your assigned tasks. Add as many tasks as you can, even for menial tasks, to be sure that nothing slips through the cracks.

Tackle the tasks you dislike the most first

Get the hardest or most boring or most disliked tasks out of the way as early in the day as possible.  This frees you up to conquer the easier or more enjoyable tasks later in the day when you’re not as fresh and you hit that afternoon slump.

Set a timer

Decide how long your next task should take you to complete and then set your timer or try Toggl (see our review about it in this post). Most of us have some natural competitive wiring, so embrace that by trying to beat the clock.

Limit distractions

This may seem obvious, but it’s tempting to pull out your cell phone and give in to your favorite distraction on there.

Self-discipline is key here.  If you need a break to help you clear your head, do so with a productive, yet simple task.  My favorites?

  1. Cleaning out stored files to get them better organized or deleting files (especially in my downloads file) that I don’t need. This really was critical in case I needed a mental-health day or I needed to be away based on the situation.  This way, if a coworker needs to find a file in my absence, they could easily do so.
  2. Catch up on the latest industry news and tips. It’s easy to dismiss this when you’re short on time, but in the PPC industry, you have to stay on top of what’s going on because it is constantly changing.  You can subscribe to our blog (shameless plug) or check out these resources to help force you to read up.  Then, share the wealth you found with your colleagues – trust me, if you found an article helpful, they will too!

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

In the U.S. working culture, it’s often considered to be a sign of weakness to ask for help.  In all reality, it’s a sign of strength.  In the end, it’s better for you, your company, and your accounts to acknowledge that you’re struggling and some assistance is needed.  If you know you need specific help to get your work done, reach out to someone to let them know what it is.  It’s far better to address your workload struggles and any shortcomings up front than to fall behind on client deliverables or let your account management slip.

Since we’re prone to make mistakes when we’re distracted when life gets tough, you can have someone double-check your work. You don’t have to spill your guts out to everyone to explain the situation.  Instead, try something like “Hey, I know you’re great at troubleshooting.  Do you have time to look at xyz thing because my gut says something’s not right, but I’m too close to it and I’m not sure what’s wrong? ” Or “I’m pretty new at doing abc and I don’t want to mess it up for this client.  When you have a chance, could you check it for me?” I’ve honestly done that recently.

Keep Looking Forward

If you’re in the middle of a trial, hang in there.  You can do this.  You’ll make it.  I say these things often to myself.

There is power in your self-talk.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  There is.  It will get easier.  Keep reminding yourself of that.  Find a quote or image that speaks to you and put it in a prominent place to remind you.  Stay positive, keep going and keep working hard, knowing this will pass and you’ll be stronger when you come out on the other side.

If you’re not in a trial right now, count your blessings and hopefully, this post will help whenever your trial comes.

What are some ways that you handle personal stress at work? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments!