10 Tips for Stress-Free Work

Color Photo Dr. Mercer
Dr. Michael Mercer

According to Michael Mercer, an industrial psychologist and co-author of “Spontaneous Optimism:  Proven Strategies for Health, Prosperity, & Happiness”:

* Get along with people. “Low-stress employees invariably have smooth working relationships with practically everyone,” Mercer said. To achieve this, find things you have in common with others and act friendly with “absolutely everybody”–from the president down to those who clean the office.

* Always be diplomatic and tactful. Avoid acting angrily or impatiently even when you’re frustrated. “Expressing anger in the workplace usually results in direct or indirect retaliation, which surely increases stress,” Mercer said.

* Learn what is expected of you. Find out your boss’s expectations of you and the expectations of your boss’s boss. “These people will make or break your career and greatly affect your stress levels,” Mercer said. “By meeting their expectations you simultaneously can get ahead plus decrease a possible cause of stress.”

* Be a team player with your boss and co-workers. “Team players are appreciative and receive much less grief than employees who act rebelliously or act like loners,” he said.

* Give three compliments a day at work. “People love receiving compliments and will try to make your life easier since you made them feel good with a compliment,” Mercer said. “They’ll remember the compliment when you ask for a favor.”

* Set goals for yourself–personal and work-related. High-stress people rarely do things to accomplish their goals. Low-stress people, on the other hand, spend more than half their time doing things that help them achieve their short-term or long-term goals.

To determine how much time you devote to achieve goals, write down everything you did in the past seven days. On a separate paper, list three short-term goals (to achieve in the next three months) and three long-term goals (to achieve in three years). Then go back to your seven-day list and note anything that helped you accomplish short-term or long-term goals.

“Typically people spend less than five percent of their time doing activities that will achieve their goals,” Mercer said. “People feel more frustrated when they don’t accomplish their goals.”

* Prepare a daily “to-do” list. “Every day before leaving work, write a list of what you need to do the next work day,” Mercer said. That little bit of organization can help prevent you from being overwhelmed by tasks that need to be done.

* Keep a neat desk or work space. We’re not talking obsessive neatness here. Mercer said his desk is nine by four feet–all of which is covered with paper except for a 2-by-2-foot space in front of him. He reserves that space for things he is working on at that moment.

* Exercise at least a little every day. Even a 10-minute walk will help. “People bottle up emotional tension or stress in their muscles,” Mercer said. By exercising a little, you can release emotional and physical stress–and be more clearheaded when deciding how to tackle a stressful situation.

* Consider changing jobs. “If the above nine tips don’t help you, then it may be time to find a new job,” Mercer said. If all else fails, Mercer cites an often-used quote: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

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