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These Three Bad Habits Are Making Your Work Stress Worse

Source | FastCompany : BY ART MARKMAN

There are plenty of workplace stressors you can neither avoid nor minimize–you’ve just got to deal with them. Maybe your performance review is around the corner and you’re worried you won’t meet expectations. Perhaps you’ve just been criticized by your supervisor or a colleague and are anxious to get back on your game. Or possibly it’s that the project you’re managing is destined to go over budget.

These experiences can be stressful in their own right, but sometimes people create more stress than a situation requires. Research going back some 100 years, on the so-called Yerkes-Dodson curve, finds that most people have a “sweet spot” in terms of stress, or what psychologists refer to as “arousal.” Too little, and you won’t be able to generate enough energy or motivation to work. Too much, and you’ll crumple under the pressure, unable to focus on the task at hand.

So when you’re laboring under a certain degree of unavoidable stress, you need to make sure it’s the right amount to keep you plugging away, but not so overwhelming that your performance and productivity plummet. To keep things in balance, try kicking these three common habits people fall into when coping with work stress.


One side effect of stress it that it can sap your focus. You tend to get stuck in a cycle of thinking, called “rumination,” about the thing that’s stressing you out. In addition, since stress is your brain’s and body’s response to something you deem potentially dangerous, you become extra sensitive to things going on in your immediate environment (due to the fact that many of the stressors our evolutionary ancestors faced involved physical threats, not conceptual ones).

To compensate for these distracting tendencies, many people try to isolate themselves from other people when they’re under pressure. “If only I can get a few hours alone this week to really focus, I’ll be able to get a better handle on this,” you may think. But this habit might only make things worse. In fact, one way to help yourself get productive work done while you’re stressed is to work together in a group.

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