If you have a high-pressure position, like a surgeon, sales executive, or teacher, you know stress.
You’re under so much pressure to produce results that seem impossible to achieve with what you have to work with. There’s a lot expected of you and it’s taking everything out of you to get close to those expectations, let alone meet them.
High-pressure industries and positions have the most stressful work environments. No matter how equipped you are to meet the challenges in these particular roles, you won’t be able to do so if you’re in a constant state of stress.
You must learn to manage stress to maintain your productivity and happiness in the workplace despite the pressure. Continue reading for more on how to thrive in a stressful work environment and why it’s important to learn how to do so.
Why Navigating Stress in a Demanding Career is Important
Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate stress in a demanding career. But if you don’t at least have ways to cope with it, how you feel and what you do at work will be negatively impacted.
For example, stress can impact how safe you are in the workplace. You’re more likely to make mistakes and overlook safety protocols when you’re stressed out, leading to accidents and injuries. Your communication with co-workers and managers is also impacted, resulting in miscommunications that put all of your safety at risk.
Chronic stress can impact your physical and mental health as well. For instance, you could experience headaches, chest pain, nausea, and fatigue when you’re stressed. More serious physical health challenges can develop, like high blood pressure and heart disease, if that stress persists long-term.
Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression worsen with chronic stress. You’ll feel more irritable and impulsive. Frequent mood changes, emotional overwhelm, and burnout result from lots of stress too.
Not being 100% mentally and physically affects your productivity and contentment in any workplace. But especially high-pressure jobs because so much is expected of you and you need to be at your best to meet those expectations.
You can’t escape stress completely in a high-pressure job. So, succeeding in one really comes down to how well you can manage stress and maintain productivity.
Tips for Thriving in a Stressful Work Environment
Stressful work environments aren’t easy to thrive in. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Use the following tips to be intentional about how you take care of yourself and create a less stressful working arrangement.
Determine What Makes Work Stressful for You
To handle a stressful job better, you must first identify what makes the work stressful for you.
Sit down and identify your work stressors in detail. For example, maybe your coworkers are hard to work with and you feel isolated. Your workload and hours could be stressors. Maybe you feel like you don’t have what you need to do your job or that workplace safety is lacking.
Because you know what stresses you out, you can find ways to work through it when it happens. Keeping with the examples above, instead of removing yourself when you’re co-workers get hard to work with, you could communicate what you’re feeling to them in the moment to overcome the barriers between you faster.
You could keep an open dialogue with your manager about your workload and hours so that it’s easier to make adjustments when you need to. You could talk to your manager about the resources you’re lacking and come up with solutions for getting them. You could also advocate for workplace health and safety to establish a secure work environment.
Whatever makes work stressful for you, specify it so that you can develop suitable coping mechanisms.
Strive for a Work-Life Balance
Two of the most common sources of stress in high-pressure industries are high expectations and long hours.
These two create a vicious cycle. Unsurmountable goals make you feel like you have to work harder to achieve them. So, you work as long and as often as possible. As a result, your work-life balance is nonexistent, and you stay stressed and burn out.
A huge part of successfully managing stress in high-pressure industries is achieving a work-life balance. Set boundaries at work that include what you can manage schedule and duties-wise. Delegate tasks so that you have a workload you can manage. You’ll also need to be disciplined in doing things that keep you healthy and stress-less, whether that be working out, painting, or doing daily self-care.
Your job can’t be everything, no matter how important it is. You need a personal life that’s full of what and who you love to help you de-stress and centre yourself anytime you need it.
Pay Special Attention to Your Mental Health
Stress can wreak havoc on your mental health if you let it. Unmanaged stress can worsen any existing mental health conditions you’re living with. It can also be the reason new mental health challenges are onset.
When your mind isn’t right, there’s no way you can do what you need to keep up with the demands of your role. Some would argue that poor mental health is worse than lacking physical health because it’s hard to cure something you can’t see or that doesn’t have a definitive timeline for a full recovery.
Whether you agree or not, paying special attention to your mental health in a high-pressure gig is critical. Nurture your mental health even if you aren’t currently dealing with mental health challenges.
For example, see a therapist a couple of times a month on an ongoing basis to establish a good rapport. That way, when a crisis does happen, you’re more likely to open up, making it easier for you to get the help you need.
You could also do the following to help your mental health:
- Don’t do anything work-related on your days off;
- Go on an extensive vacation every year;
- Use your personal/sick time;
- Have clear work hours every day;
- Establish open lines of communication with leadership.
Resilience is the ability to adapt to life’s unexpected changes and challenges. Many of these changes and challenges will present themselves at work, especially in a high-pressure position that’s ever-evolving.
If you can learn how to be more resilient, the stress won’t get to you as much. You’ll just pivot in the face of stressful events.
For example, let’s say you’re a sales manager who’s under pressure to get your team to achieve a high sales goal at a newly announced tight deadline. You’ll adapt your strategy to the timeline and delegate tasks accordingly instead of dwelling on how hard it will be to achieve your goal in this short amount of time.
Foster resilience by making deeper connections with the team you’ll lean on in stressful times. Develop an inherently positive, solution-oriented mindset. And practice confident decision-making.
It may not seem like flourishing and being happy in a high-pressure job is possible. But it is with the right intentions and strategy. Navigate stress well, and a high-pressure work environment won’t be a match for you.