Banking

Six performance tips for stressed IT pros

Levels of stress seem to be on the rise everywhere. How we deal with it affects our performance and career success. Career and leadership coach John M. McKee offers six tips and tactics that have helped his clients in demanding times.
"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, very compelling reasons for the way she's feeling. A lot of people are being impacted in a similar way:

- Every day we hear how bad the economy is. Even if you're not getting downsized, or losing a mortgage, or trying to recover some of your lost investments, you're exposed to the news everyday and everywhere. Like a healthy person eating junk food, it all starts building up internally. You can lose perspective, becoming more emotional and stressed out.

- There seems to be little precedent for this gloomy, worldwide situation. Usually, when times are tough, we can look to leaders, experts, or older or wiser individuals for guidance based on experience. It's comforting during a crisis to hear someone say that they've seen this before, and they know what to do to fix this thing. But this time seems different. Further, it seems worse than before. And everyone seems to be just guessing. Looking for guidance, we often hear conflicting feedback. Consequently, on a subconscious level, our minds keep engaged on the subject. We can't get that nourishing sleep or enjoy the good times quite like we did before.

- People's fight or flight response may kick in but not have any outlet. So your body gets charged up, ready to take action. But instead, 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. Likewise, very few people regularly do things to calm down those hormones and enzymes through mental practices.

Each of these reasons is insidious. Any one of them can create enough stress to cause someone who is physically and emotionally healthy to start exhibiting unhealthy symptoms. When combined, these three reasons could be a recipe for a disaster if they aren't dealt with effectively. Stress causes individuals to perform more poorly in all three key life aspects: career, personal, and financial. Most of us know that to be the case, but we don't do much about it.

Here are six suggestions I've been sharing with our clients at BusinessSuccessCoach.net:

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. That said, most people don't do it regularly and even less so during difficult situations. If you don't, you're wasting a great opportunity to mellow out at any time and any place. 2. Remember that, 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. Good sleep is critical. Without it, be prepared to face the consequences of becoming more emotional and less reasonable and less productive and more foggy, which is not great for your job performance. You'll also see signs of aging more quickly and have more aches and pains. Everyone has a reason why they can't sleep, such as the environment (their bed, their partner). Or they'll say they can't sleep due to their stress. The quality of the sleep is the issue -- not how much time you spend in the bed. 4. Consider your diet. How much we eat and what we eat. Both can impact one's ability to perform at peak efficiency. We all know that when someone is overweight, it can create health problems, cause stress, and affect sleep habits. Additionally, a person's confidence may go downhill if they start having negative mental conversations with themselves about what they're doing or not doing to themselves. Underweight people can be equally as self-negative, of course. 5. Quiet the mind. We actually can just stop thinking about all the bad stuff around us. And when we do, we feel positive and more relaxed, and we do more things to amplify those good feelings. Success breeds success, and usually when we're on a roll, we do more of what we're doing to improve our situation further. Stop tracking the news as much. I'm not suggesting that we put our heads in the sand, only that we understand that the news isn't going to change a lot from day to day. You don't need to be a news junky, reading every piece of bad news that is generated. What you feed your mind becomes who you are. 6. 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 that 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. A bonus tip: Express gratitude. There's 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. Career, personal, and financial successes.

john

Leadership Coach

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...

21 comments
n3ur0
n3ur0

You must have heard of Drought in jungles. Drought is the hardest time for any creature lives in a jungle right from a plant to animals. But its a rule of nature those things have to come, so that the strongest one survive. And than make a better Jungle. So you shall not worry about the tough time rather should be happy that you are still surviving and that proves you strong. this should motivates you try every ounce in hard times to survive and make your mark.

vaibhav_garg
vaibhav_garg

#7 Try to spend more time with you family This will bring positive energy and you will learn to enjoy the beauty of life !!!

jkameleon
jkameleon

7. Don't worry about being laid off. When downsizing/righsizing/synergizing/etc is over, your job won't be worth coming to anyhow.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

"Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things." Phillipians 4:6-8

reisen55
reisen55

Anyone who has had fingers on a keyboard in a data center, knowing that his commands can essentially kill off an entire business, would be an idiot not be aware of stress. Goes with our job which has gotten much harder over the past 12 years. It is critical to get it out of your system and put it aside at the end of the day. Any activity to relieve your mind is a must. Don't care what it is, just do it. One way to take a walk is to do so in the woods. After a certain distance, you can talk to God of whatever shape you think he or she is in and people will not think you a maniac - and secondly, for anger management, knock dead trees down. It is fantastic fun and returns wood to nature. My own benefit is that I am a survivor of the 101st floor, South tower, on September 11, 2001 so whenever I compare stress to that particular time period .... it all balances out.

kymbutterworth
kymbutterworth

Tip # 5 works best for me - quieting the mind. I like to meditate several times a week. I don't manage every day but when I do I feel great for most of that day. Just emptying my mind helps to clear all the clutter out and let me focus on what I want to do - and stops me thinking about the things that stress me out. Kym from detox diets

KSoniat
KSoniat

These tips are good anytime - but in today's economy we forget them with all the "noise" going on around us. The title makes me cringe though, as it is much too close to the many spams I receive on occassion.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

Do you use any of these tactics during the day?

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

Through a series of spectacular initiatives the management nearly succeeded in running the company I work for into the ground. Round after round of redundancies decimated the staff. Finally, we were bought by an investment company with vision. The clear fact was that we no longer had the workforce to efficiently deliver the wide range of products we had before, so our portfolio was pruned, hard. The original management were kept for as long as it took to replace them without damaging the business (the last one leaves today). This all happened a couple of years before the recession. Now we are lean and mean, with a great set of products and, despite the worldwide economy, are growing again. Redundancy hurt, there is no doubt about that. It was a real demotivator. And the colleagues who didn't survive...well they are all doing really well, actually. They are all talented people, and all got really good jobs with our competitors before the recession hit, and look good to survive in their new posts. The job at the post-redundancy company I work for really is worth coming to. Its amazing how great the job is when every delivered project makes an immediate, visible difference. Every week we see time-wasting processes being stripped down or even cut completely - if it doesn't have real value, we don't do it. Every month there is a new technology for me to learn - my resume/CV has grown more in the last year than any 4 before. New features for products we suggested years ago are now being approved, just as fast as we can implement them. As the company grows again, I see opportunities opening up for me. So, grit your teeth for those redundancies, and hope you survive, sure. But if you do survive, turn up for work ready to work.

brian
brian

Sorry - I can't agree with that one. I'm going to do what I can to make the company I work for recognize I am not one who should be on the chopping block. We are on Round Two of the dotcom implosion - Sun dumping people, IBM dumping people, you name it. My dotcom was knocked out in Round One, I plan on surviving Round Two. This is the time where companies can gain advantage over others, spending when others are not, snatching up market share, of what little is out there. I plan on going the distance. Ask Mrinal.Desai (see CEO, Crossloop.com) and find out what he did on the last dotcom disaster.... You trot home with your pink slip and attitude, while I reimage your computer with something resembling work.

anafziger
anafziger

How often we forget that many of the answers to our problems are right in front of us. How ironic that prayer is often the last resort instead of the first response. It's the most powerful tool we have.

KSoniat
KSoniat

... I had no idea. Glad you made it. Tragedy puts everything in perspective. I lost my first daughter due to rejection of a liver transplant after a 15 month wait, 30 day stay in a Philadelphia hospital and an air ambulance to Pittsburgh where she passed away. Today would have been her 20th birthday. I have two healthy children, a terrific husband - who currently works in AL during the week, but that is insignificant compared to what we have already survived. I agree that any stress thrown at me today pales in comparison.

kaur_manjit145
kaur_manjit145

i agree,that we forgot our basics ,leaving basics we sometimes focuss on unnecessary things which is the major reson of many problems.we can say forgeting basics are the real problems

kaur_manjit145
kaur_manjit145

i consider boosting is the real reson for one's sucess.a person being boosted by someone not only gets encouraged but he/she may perfom better with good interests in job.i myself tries to boost more and more persons i can

karma barn
karma barn

...of my good friend David Ross who would embrace layoffs by volunteering and taking a severance package, then take a 6-month sabbatical in a place like Australia before looking for the next position. The technique served him well since his life was cut all too short by esophageal cancer at age 45. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Your friends miss ya, Dave, but the refs on the Cal hardwood probably don't.

StealthWiFi
StealthWiFi

All these people need to get over it, suck it up and move on. America was founded on hard work and opportunities, you?re out of a job - that's an opportunity to find a better one. If anyone in my office is whining about the economy and how bad their life is just because they watch the news they can get out. I don't need people like that dragging office moral down. Your comment on it being unprecedented is BS. Ever heard of the great depression? We didn't have the same type of news coverage then so we didn't know how bad the global economy was, on top of that people knew to shut up and get on with their lives. There are far to many GREAT opportunities out there right now to be complaining, and on top of all that someone has it worse than you some where. You are correct on your breathing exercise. It's commonly referred to as tactical breathing (Police and Military use) and works amazingly. Breathe in through the nose (deep belly breath) for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds Out through the mouth for 4 seconds Hold for 4 seconds Repeat (amount varies by person) Lt. Col. David Grossman (US Army Ret.) Let the flaming begin...

jkameleon
jkameleon

Most of them had abandoned IT field for good, and they are doing far better than me. That suxx :(

brian.sinclair-james
brian.sinclair-james

America was founded by people who worried about their situation so much they ran away, but I don't think that's practical advice right now. Telling people to suck it up or get out is unlikely to help morale any more than the whining. Telling people to use the stress to find new opportunities is a good idea, though. Learn a new job skill, find some new need on the job that you can fill, look for a new tool to master. Tactical breathing is good, also ungi breathing but it takes practice. Sometimes it's good to sit back and scan your environment, roll your shoulders, and get back to work. It's stupid for people to think that the downturn means no opportunities, but it's also stupid to think all those people hurt during the depresssion just woke up one day saying "gee, I think I'll stop being productive." I've seen good people laid off, but they tend to survive.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

People should stop expecting others (like the govt) to make things better. If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, move to where you can and stop whining and bugging the rest of us.

uberg33k50
uberg33k50

The Colonel is right. If you have a job and you are listening to the media and getting yourself and others freaked out -- it would be much better to move on. Most people need to get their head out of their 4th point of contact (whether you were airborne or not,Colonel, I am sure that sounds familar). There are two points to make here -- 1)Stop WORRYING about stuff. If you can do soemthing about it -- do it. If you cannot do anything about it then worrying isn't going to make it better, it will just make everything in your life worse. 2) If you are creating all of this negative energy by worring about stuff it will create a self fulfilling prophecy that will create exactly what you are afraid will happen.

kaur_manjit145
kaur_manjit145

never lets ur works to be dependent on others.to be ahead from others never expect too much from others.i believe that if u can't then others don't .

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