Stressed out? Take some time for you.

“I’m so stressed out.” “I can’t take this pressure!” “I need a vacation … from work, from life!”

At one point in time or another, we’ve all uttered these or similar statements. Sometimes the cause of our stress is too much work. Sometimes it’s family pressures. Other times it’s from setting ourselves up with unrealistic expectations or overly ambitious promises.

But, what if I also told you that some stress is good? Sometimes small amounts of stress can help motivate you – for example, when you’re working against a deadline or competing against others to win an award or other recognition. In these cases, stress can actually help your performance.

Many people will experience job stress at one point in time or another. However, the key to managing stress is to understand how it affects you. Do you work well under pressure or do you feel crushed by deadlines and mounting expectations?

What would you think if I told you that according to various research studies, about 40 percent of Americans in the work force are stressed? While there are many causes of job stress, it’s important to understand that stress doesn’t just show up overnight. Sometimes it can creep up over time as you become more and more accustomed to living in an increasingly stressful environment – until one day, you feel completely overwhelmed.

Do you know the warning signs for when you’re taking on too much stress? Do you become agitated or withdrawn? Or both? Be on the lookout for these classic symptoms of job stress:

  • You seem moody and/or irritable all the time.
  • You suffer from unexplainable aches and pains that become chronic, or you get more colds than normal.
  • You’re eating more or less than usual, possibly gaining or losing weight unintentionally.
  • You hate getting up in the morning – when the alarm clock goes off, you have to convince yourself to get up and go to work.
  • You lose interest in your job and do not care anymore about doing a great job.
  • You’re tired. All of the time. And, resting on your day off still leaves you feeling tired.
  • You can’t concentrate and may have frequent migraine headaches.
  • You withdraw socially, and no longer want to do things that involve other people.

Now, I do want to point out that you don’t have to be a seasoned employee to feel job stress. Anyone in any position can be stressed. If you realize that you have some of these warning signs, do not be alarmed. There is hope for you! The key is to identify that you may be feeling overloaded by stress, find the cause and then begin to deal with the symptoms right away.

Finding the cause of your stress is likely an easy task. Review your work day and look for triggers. Is it your work environment? A particular project you’re working on? Problems with a coworker? A scheduling issue? Often, if you identify the cause of the stress, you can find a solution to resolve the problem. In the meantime, however, it’s important to take care of yourself.

Taking care of you – how to manage work stress:

  • Begin your day off right. A good workout before work as well as a great breakfast can start your day on a good foot.
  • Know what is expected and required from you on your job. Many times people are stressed because they do not really understand the expectations of their job and feel that they may not be able to meet those expectations.
  • Put everything in perspective. Is this really the position for you? Sometimes we force the shoe. In other words, we try to force ourselves to be in a position that just does not fit. Maybe it’s time to start looking for a new job?
  • Talk to your boss. Maybe this is the right position for you, but there are some aspects of your job that don’t fit. Sometimes just tweaking your job responsibilities may be the answer.
  • Stay focused on what is important. Is one of your coworkers the source of your stress? Take personal feelings out of the equation and keep it professional at all times. Stay focused on your work rather than engage in personal matters.
  • Learn to share. Find a trusted friend or co-worker that you can talk to. Sometimes just having someone there to listen can help you feel better. One of the great things about Sodexo is that we have access to a team of professionals who can help us manage work and personal stress through a company called Lifeworks. See if your company has an employee assistance program.
  • Laugh. Learn to laugh a little and not take everything so seriously.
  • Set realistic expectations. Often, we set our goals for success so high, that we have a hard time reaching them. Remember that there are only so many hours in every day and set realistic expectations for yourself.
  • Take a walk. Sometimes we just need a little fresh air or to take a break. If possible, take a short walk on your lunch break. It may be just what you need to clear your head.
  • Stay positive. Above all, remember that your attitude will carry you far. Positive things happen to positive people.
  • And finally, stay away from gossip and gossipers. Getting caught up in rumors and hearsay only encourages a negative work environment for everyone involved.

As Lee Iacocca once said, “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”


Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR). Follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, or just Network with Us.

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