How to Overcome High Job Expectations and Stress

Posted in Work/Life Balance | October 28, 2011 |

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.
~Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You

Do you have a boss who expects nothing less than perfection?  When I think back to my time as a manager, I hope that I was never that kind of boss. But I know that I placed very high expectations on myself! So whether the pressure comes for an external source, your boss or from an internal source, yourself, managing high job expectations can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible.

I have found myself in just this place over the last year. I have been involved in a huge corporate project, which was slated to be completed in three years. Two years into the project we have already been extended a year with the potential of additional changes.  \We are faced with with many obstacles from many, many people to train, to a large geographical area, to very sensitive and critical information to manage.

Now add this to my never-ending passion to create a location independent lifestyle business, family, significant other, friends and travel. How do you fit it all in?  I have definitely found myself looking at that line in the sand where stress begins and life as you know it ends.

How to recognize warning signs of excessive stress at work

When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn. This can make you less productive and less effective in your job, and make the work seem less rewarding.

Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

The first step is to develop coping skills so your stress never gets the best of you. In fact, you can learn how to deal with the stress of high job expectations and stress in a way that allows you to become more effective and efficient at your job!

Mindset Changes

There are many different strategies that can help you deal with high with job expectations and stress. The goal is to handle your job more effectively so you can feel better and accomplish more in less time.

  1. Prepare for the stress. When you know you’re going to be stressed out or that expectations will be high, you can proactively prepare for it to take the debilitating properties out of the equation. For example, if you’re worried about the uncertainties that can’t control, involve others to find out the answers.
  2. Be aware of your thought process. Many times, when there are high expectations placed upon us, we start thinking negatively. For instance, when your boss is being demanding, you may think to yourself, “There is no way I can ever get that done! I’m incapable!” You need to replace the negative thought processes with thoughts like, “Stress challenges me to do more and be more.”  You will be able to excel when you disallow any negative attitudes and replace them with empowering thoughts.
  3. Organize your work. When you create an action plan, you’ll find that it’s easier to deal with high expectations. Create a list of the things you need to get done, and prioritize them so if you start to feel distracted or stressed out, you can always defer to the plan. When you have a plan, your performance will live up to your expectations and you will find that you are less likely to give in to stress and frustration.
  4. Create a balanced schedule. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime. Find time for a hobby or passion that is completely different from your normal work life. Allow yourself time for a different prospective on live.
  5. Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. I like to create a buffer zone between meetings or tasks, this allows you to shift gears and re-energy. Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
  6. Plan regular breaks. Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind. My favorite lunch time activity is a walk in the park, just 15-20 minutes of fresh air and a change or scenery will have an enormous impact.

Physical Changes

Several physical “tricks” can help you recharge and nourish your body no matter how stressful or demanding your work projects are.

  1. Brisk Walk and Affirmations. As I was mentioning above a nice walk during your lunch break can really change your mindset. Now it is time to step it up a notch and really get into motion. Move into a brisk or power walk, get your heart pumping and breathe deeply. As you are walking create/repeat an affirmation, it doesn’t need to be fancy or long, something as simple as “I am stress free and energized.” This creates a positive mindset as well as distracting you from your worries and stress during your walk.
  2. Rehydrate and re-energize. Grab yourself a bog glass of water, must of us forget to drink enough water during our busy work days. This causes headaches and fatigue that makes an already stressful situation even worse. Keep a bottle of water on your desk in easy reach, this will help you to drink more.
  3. Power-nap for 10-20 minutes. More and more corporations understand the benefits of power naps for employee productivity, some even offer sleeping areas. If your company is not as enlighten as these you can find some easy ways to grab a quick nap; find an empty meeting room, head out to your car or a park bench, or just put your head down on your desk. Just make it clear for anyone that walks by that you are on your break.
  4. Brew a cup of Tea. You know that Gramma did have it right, a good cup of tea can fix most things that bother you! Try a few different teas to find the ones you like the best and pick one that will work for that particular time of day. I don’t recommend chamomile in the afternoon, it might put you right to sleep, but before bed it would be perfect.
  5. Get a Massage. I know, I know you are saying, massages cost money, I am already stressed about my job and money. Well think about this, if you get sick or have to leave your job because of stress, how much money will that cost? Even once a month will make a huge difference. Massages relive headaches, reduce blood pressure, combat sleep deprivation and help manage stress.
  6. Breathe. Sounds simple, well it is. We don’t often think about the fact that we are always breathing. Taking time to focus on our breath, concentrating on the simple in and out of the process, allows us to reconnect with our body and mind.  Just breath in, count to five, breath out count to five and repeat 10 times. After the first two breaths you will notice a feeling of peaceful calm washing over you.  Anything you feel things are getting out of control, just take 10 deep breathes.

As you can see, there are some simple, yet effective, ways to deal with high expectations and work stress. The ability to manage stress in the workplace can not only improve your physical and emotional health, it can also make the difference between success or failure on the job.

My heart-felt recommendation is that you spent 15 minutes a day in stress relief activities AND time on the weekends.  I would even say, find some weekends where you can completely disconnect from the world and enjoy solitude, peace and calm.  Trust me, once you know how that feels you will make it a number one priority.

Lori Lynn Smith is a passionate and an authentic teacher who shares her real life experiences about creating a more nurturing and fulfilling lifestyle. On her blog LoriLynnSmith you can follow along while Lori continues on the path of transformation from Chaos to Calm.


Photo credit: Spaceamoeba

Smart Thoughts (6)

  1. Yuval Goren says:

    Very good suggestions Lori.
    I would also suggest that you spend 15-20 min every morning planning your day and then another 20 min every evening reflecting on your day and planing the following day. This can make you much more productive and verify you stay focused on the things that matter the most.

  2. Hi Yuval,

    I completely agree that any time spent in planning can really focus you and create lots of opporuntity for productivity.

    I do like to separate the de-stressing activities, from the producity activites, but think they are just as valuable to you long term career success.


    Lori Lynn

  3. noch says:

    can i add that after realizing the physical symptoms, is to do something about them? and know when to say no and walk away from the work
    i had all those physical symptoms. i probably knew i was stressed. but i was adamant to NOT admit i was stressed, and so i did nothing about them. didn’t eat better. didn’t sleep more…. despite already engaging in activities you suggested above, nearly all of them.
    my problem was denial, and thought that as long as i organized my work, went to the spa, the gym, it was all ok….
    well. i got way over stressed, got depressed, and nearly killed myself…. literally
    but today is better
    and today i keep learning, and i echo what you say above
    thanks for the post!

    • @noch

      That is so true, you do have to admit there is a problem that needs to be fixed.

      It is not just the physical actions, it is the mindset shift. That shift needs to happen or nothing you try will work.

      I am glad to hear that you are working on it and continue on your path of de-stressing!

      Lori Lynn

  4. fiona says:

    I do love this article. My first job stressed me a lot. And I really don’t know what to do about it that I eventually withdraw from it.
    Those suggestions are really great. I guess it’s time for me to have a leap out of my comfort zone. :)