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How to Cope With Workplace Stress

If you feel stressed on a daily basis, join the crowd. Eighty percent of American workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage it, according to a Gallup Poll.


But by understanding two important concepts, you can prevent stress from taking over your life.

"First, the type and amount of stress you experience is a direct result of your beliefs and attitudes," says William Atkinson, author of Eliminate Stress From Your Life Forever. "People who experience less stress tend to understand that stress is a perception -- a personal reaction to certain events -- and they can control their reactions."

Second, the amount of stress you experience is affected by your overall physical health, which you can improve by eating right, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and doing exercises that relax you, such as meditation or deep breathing.

Mr. Atkinson offers these additional suggestions on dealing with stress before, during and after a stressful event.

Before stress

The following ideas can help stabilize your day-to-day experiences, which, in turn, can help minimize your reactions to stressful events.

  • Find time for things in your life that make you happy. This can have a significant impact on the amount of stress you feel.
  • Build social ties. People who have a strong social network of friends and family tend to experience less stress than those who feel alone.
  • Simplify your life. Ask yourself if all the things you're doing really need to be done.
  • Redefine your TV habits. Ask yourself before you watch a show: "Is this show positive, upbeat and life-affirming?" If not, skip it and do something productive or relaxing.

In the moment

When you're faced with a stressful situation, you can cope more effectively if you reflect on what you're feeling, and smile or laugh, which will ease your tension.

"Laughter releases chemicals into the bloodstream that improve your alertness and mental functioning, thus allowing you to react better to challenging situations," says Mr. Atkinson.

After stress

If you've experienced a particularly stressful event or day, these actions can help you decompress:

  • Exercise by yourself or with a friend or family member.
  • Read a book, watch a movie or listen to music.
  • Enjoy a hobby, such as gardening, woodworking, sewing or drawing.
  • Talk with a family member or friend about the things that are causing you stress.