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Five stress-busting tips for IT pros

How you deal with stress can affect your performance and career success. Here are some field-tested tips for keeping stress levels under control.

"I'm stressed out. The environment around here is bad, and it's getting worse. I'm concerned that the economy's going to take a long time get back to normal -- if it ever does."

I hear a lot of comments like this. But in this case, the speaker is a client who's actually a successful leader. She works in an organization that seems to be bulletproof when it comes to the recession's effects. There seems to be no risk to her at this stage. So you might ask, "Why is SHE concerned?"

I think there are several compelling reasons for the way she's feeling. Many people are being impacted in a similar way:

  • Every day we hear how bad the economy is. Even if you're not being downsized, or losing a mortgage, or trying to recover some of your lost investments, you're exposed to the news everyday and everywhere.
  • There seems to be little precedent for this gloomy, worldwide situation. Usually, when times are tough, we can look to leaders, experts, or wise individuals for guidance based on experience. But this time seems different -- and it seems worse than before.
  • Your fight or flight response may kick in but not have any outlet. You're spending time in the office, the car, or at home, and you're not doing anything physical. Your body and your psyche then react in a bad way because our systemic responses were designed to deal with problems physically.

Any one of these reasons can create stress, and when combined, it could be a recipe for a disaster. Here are a few suggestions I've been sharing with our clients at BusinessSuccessCoach.net.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in our IT Leadership blog.

1: Take a deep breath

You've heard this many times, but here's the thing -- you probably don't do it regularly. And it works. Doctors, sports coaches, and therapists will tell you that a deep breath, done thoughtfully, can do an amazing amount of good. It can clear your head, stop headaches, reduce your blood pressure, and make you less angry.

2: Find an outlet

Without an outlet, you will carry your stress in your body. It won't simply go away because the immediate aggravation is over for the time being. It manifests in things like back problems or stiff necks. It gets worse the longer you don't give your body the chance to get rid of it by doing something physical. So do something. It doesn't have to be demanding, just rejuvenating. For example, yoga is a great exercise for anyone at any level. Dancing is great even by yourself. Anything to deal with the stress in a physical way.

3: Get some decent sleep and consider your diet

Without a good night's sleep, you're going to become more emotional, less reasonable and productive, and more foggy. You'll also see signs of aging more quickly and have more aches and pains. Remember: The quality of the sleep is the issue -- not how much time you spend in the bed. It's also important to pay attention to how much you eat and what you eat. Both can affect your ability to perform at peak efficiency.

4: Help someone

It feels really good to help others. It creates a rush that is difficult to create in any other way. There are people in worse situations than you are, and you can volunteer your service. It doesn't have to be a poor family down the road (although that's a wonderful place to start) -- it can be that guy across the cube who is struggling with something you think is simple, or perhaps your aunt who never gets invited out for dinner because she's a bit odd. This action helps improve your self-confidence and often improves your game at work.

5: Express gratitude

There are usually a couple of things that are good in everyone's life. It's valuable to focus on them. Regularly. Research on the subject indicates that being grateful for what we have is one of the primary causes of happiness and -- here's the big one -- greater success. That's right. Those who are the most grateful for what they have in their lives enjoy more of those successes.


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About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

12 comments
rajarshichakrabarti
rajarshichakrabarti

I am in the IT field myself and the tip that works for me is that I keep telling myself that "I have an ALTERNATIVE". To have an alternative in any tough situation is the key to bust out the stress and support from the FAMILY is a must.

agilebrainz
agilebrainz

You do know what we do for a living, right? :-)

thomsonk
thomsonk

Tuesday morning last week, my mental state was such that I was about ready to go nuke. When I got to work, there was a person parked to my left who was fiddling with her driver-side door with a big screwdriver, and pretty agitated. It turned out that the door would not shut! The latch in the door itself was jammed. I messed with it for a few seconds, and got it to work. Blind, stinking luck for sure, but that lady sure was happy. She could drive her car once again, and would not be late for her interview after all! I don't know how, but it helped me too.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

All too often in our job, it' hard to prove that we have...... Get rewarded for it, well that's even more difficult.... Not to mention getting a big smile from someone of the female persuasion which always cheers a bloke up. :p

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Not feeling in control when you are in a bad situation is always stressful. Exercising your power is what takes the stress out though, not remebering you could. Being stressed isn't a problem for most, it's being trapped that is a problem. These pretend you aren't tips are just f'ing iritating. On a management blog, they are self serving as well.

mainframe1962
mainframe1962

I've read that a major cause of stress is a lack of control over events that affect me. When new situations, where I'm lacking power, start to pile up, my feelings about them can crowd out a broader awareness of all the options and power I do have to feel good about life. I can see at least two ways that helping someone can tend to put things back in perspective: 1) It's a reminder of power that I do have. I have lots of abilities, professional and otherwise, that are valuable in an infinite variety of situations. 2) It's a chance to make a human connection. The desire to feel connected seems to be a big motivator behind a lot of my goals, but simple connections can be very satisfying, if I really pay attention to them. I try to take time to just listen to people (when other priorities aren't pressing), and look beneath their words and tone, imagine what they might be feeling and try to empathize with that. It's free, it's powerful, it helps me feel connected and sometimes the other person even notices and appreciates it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

interesting that they are all ways of coping, not removing. Better still we all know what coping in business means don't we? More...... Plagiarism, pure and simple this straight of a how to deal with stress website. How about how to stop management stressing you out, I could do with an article on that.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

the only IT stress I get is from the IT Dept. When I manage my own systems, I have way less problems than IT managed systems

mkroehler
mkroehler

We say the same thing about some of the bone-headed requests we get from developers, or attempting to support their buggy code...

jkameleon
jkameleon

Why bother busting stress anyway? Stressful times call for stressful personalitites. Fight or flight time, children!