Burnout

Here’s how to handle problems at work in a more stress-resistant way

Jolanda Meijer
by Jolanda Meijer
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Employers expect flexibility and solution orientation from their staff in addition to stress resistance. Employees are also assessed on their ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and to deal well with adversity. The better you can deal with problems and are able to adapt your behavioral style to changes inside or outside the organization and to changed working conditions, the more that will contribute to your professionalism. In this article, you’ll discover in 4 steps how to handle your problems in a stress-proof way.

Coping mechanisms in dealing with stress

How do you deal with problems or changes?

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Are you aware of the way you react when something goes against you ? This coping with problems or setbacks is often referred to as coping. Your coping mechanism greatly determines how stress-resistant you are.

There are different coping mechanisms or styles explained in the following example.

Suppose you are in the car on your way to an appointment. Suddenly, a red light starts flashing on your dashboard. How do you deal with that?

Tackling the problem: You stay calm, stop at the next parking space and google or look up in the car manual what to do at this signal. Next, you take action.

With this coping style, you often see every problem as a challenge, go full-on and approach it rationally. You can reduce complex issues to manageable pieces and then find solutions to them. This is a particularly effective way to deal with problems.

Call in help: you quickly call an acquaintance who knows about cars and ask what’s best to do. If you adopt this style, you seek support and like to solve problems in cooperation with others. This coping style can also be very effective.

Hiding your head in the sand: you ignore the light and want to drive on quickly to your appointment. You set your mind to zero and hope it will turn off on its own. With this, you actually deny that there is a problem and avoid it. You’d rather not address problems at the risk of making them worse. This, of course, is not as effective. After all, there is a chance that you will soon be at a complete standstill.

Making up diversionary tactics: you really can’t handle emotionally that something is wrong with the car right now, of all times. You really don’t want to be late for your appointment! You put on your favorite music and sing along enthusiastically. By focusing on other things, you try to divert attention from the problem and your emotions. With this, you solve nothing.

Beating yourself up: you panic about the light and blame yourself for it: ‘Oh, no! If only I had had that maintenance done on time. Now I’ll be in trouble if I’m late.’ You let the problem overwhelm you and are unable to think clearly because of the fretting and self-doubt. This passive approach doesn’t help you either.

Expressing frustration: behind the wheel you start ranting, “So that’s just me again, why doen’t it go ok for once! You start driving faster and faster, and anyone who doesn’t hurry is honked off the road. When you encounter a problem it causes tension and anger in you. These emotions you react to your environment. By doing so, you often make the problem worse and do not work toward a solution.

Keeping your spirits up: you reassure yourself: ‘It won’t be too bad, fortunately the car is still running fine. There must be a loose connection somewhere. You see the bright side of everything and are good at putting things into perspective. It could always be worse! This optimistic style may seem positive but even here the problem remains.

Of course, it depends on the situation and the nature of the problem, which style you will adopt, but usually you will have a preferred style.

Do you recognize your own style?

In summary, the first two coping styles in particular are effective responses and contribute to problem solving. The rest are just reactions to the consequences of the problem. If you suffer from stress due to changing circumstances or problems at work, chances are that negative feelings such as anger, fear and sadness will cause you to focus on avoiding those emotions rather than on solving the problem or how best to adapt to a new situation.

Turning a problem into a challenge, yep cliche 🙂

It may sound like a cliché to think not in problems but in challenges, yet it can help you move forward.

Some problems can overwhelm you so that you are literally weighed down by them, and your body language speaks volumes. With a slightly hunched posture and drooping shoulders, you often feel powerless and unable to cope with your situation. Whereas at the thought of a challenge, we tend to straighten our backs and roll up our sleeves. Bring it on! That feels much more powerful and you focus on the solution more than anything else.

When faced with a problem, you actually always go through three stages.

  • First, you note that there is a problem. You are in a situation that you don’t like. It may come from getting yourself into trouble or from something someone else has done or failed to do but something can also happen to you that is beyond your control.
  • Then you assess how bad it is. You evaluate the situation and estimate what the consequences will be for you or those around you. You then form your opinion on that. Is this problem important enough that you want to do something about it or can you ignore it?

    Assessing the problem includes understanding whether you can actually change it. If you can’t solve the problem because you can’t affect it, there is little point in throwing yourself fully into it. That only causes frustration. You can then respond by scrutinizing your thoughts and beliefs about that problem to deal with it differently and reduce stress.
  • Finally, after all consideration, determine your response. Because you usually react on autopilot, you are often unaware of these phases as well as your way of dealing with problems (coping). Before you know it, you have already said or done something and afterwards doubt whether it was the right thing to do. Good to become aware of your preferred style.

Becoming more stress resistant in 4 steps.

1. Analyze problem

After identifying a problem, try to assess the situation as neutrally as possible. You probably have an opinion about it and possibly feel frustration or anxiety about what happened. Taking a different view of your new circumstances makes it easy to deal with change.

It helps to step back and consider the problem as if you were outside of it yourself. Your feelings are then at a low ebb for a while and you can continue to think clearly. For example, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What exactly is going on and what do you observe?
  • What parties are involved and how important are the consequences to you?
  • Do you have any influence to solve the problem or can you merely adjust your thoughts and opinions about your situation so that it is less stressful?

A good example is the mandatory working from home during the first lock-down by COVID-19. That caused problems for many of us. Those who had never heard of Zoom or Teams and had no experience working online could be stressed by it. Creating a quiet place in the home, dividing the tasks around housekeeping, homeschooling and childcare also gave rise to heated situations within the family.

2. Formulate challenge

These questions can help you:

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  • Have you faced a similar problem before?
  • What was a good solution then?
  • What would you advise a friend or colleague in the same situation?

If you have a solution in mind, formulate it as specifically and clearly as possible so that it becomes an achievable goal. If it’s too much at once, figure out how to divide it into steps.

In the example of working from home, the challenge could be: How do I ensure that I can continue to do my own work in a pleasant way as much as possible while also making my contribution within the family. To keep this up, it is important that I also seek the necessary relaxation.

3. devise (different) approach

If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got, Albert Einstein said. The solution often cannot be found in your old habits and behaviors, which can actually cause you to get into trouble. Should your old habit be to work too long hours at the expense of your personal life, you can expect that this will cause you new problems in this situation of working from home.

Other choices are needed in this emergency. You do what you can but you can only focus your attention on one thing at a time. You are also entitled to time off. By approaching the problem from a different angle and employing new behaviors, you are more likely to reach your goal.

Assume what you can do to improve this situation and, if necessary, seek help and support from others. You don’t always have to solve it on your own. Plan what you think needs to be done and set out the corresponding actions.

You could think practically when working from home about buying the necessary equipment and possible reimbursements from your employer for setting up a workspace at home. You can ask for help from colleagues or acquaintances who have experience working and meeting online.

In consultation with all family members, create a schedule for all tasks, but also agree with each other to take breaks and do fun things together that are still possible in the lock-down.

4. Evaluate impact

When you have achieved what you wanted, take time to reflect on what this has brought you.

  • Were you able to solve the problem, alone or with others?
  • Does it improve the situation for you personally and also contribute to the organizational interest?
  • What good feature were you able to use in this solution? Think about your organizational talent, resourcefulness or perseverance.

Awareness is the key

Thus, you become aware of your chosen path and approach that can give you perspective for dealing with problems in the future! And that is 1 of the best anti-stress remedies you can think of.

Free introductory call,

Run into a lack of assertiveness or self-confidence?

Want to get rid of that, once and for all? Then my 1-on-1 coach approach is really something for you. Lets get acquainted first, no strings attached. See if we have a 'click' and if I can help you.

> Schedule your free call now

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