This article accompanies What's Keeping You Up?
Layoffs, reorganization, stagnant wages -- these are all symptoms of a faltering economy that can at times fall squarely on the shoulders of HR executives as well as their staffs. The resulting stress of trying to do more with less can, at times, feel overwhelming.
Now is a good time to look at ways to proactively manage stress. Here are some tips:
Define the problem. Many people walk around with a cloud of "stress" over their heads. If asked to pinpoint what is causing the stress, a person often describes a list of vague worries.
It is important to define exactly what is causing you stress -- only then can you take appropriate steps to deal with the stressors.
Once this is accomplished, take time to prioritize and make a plan to address each issue. Simply having a plan is a significant first step toward reducing the impact of stress.
Take control of your stressors. Especially in the current economic environment, we tend to feel that so much of what is happening is out of our control.
The one thing you do have control of is how you respond to events and stressors. Practice being "less affected and more effective," meaning instead of worrying or letting stress consume you, put your mental energy into action.
Take care of yourself. In times of stress -- when we need our mental and physical energy most -- we tend to not get enough rest, not make time for exercise and not take the time to eat right.
These "shortcuts" actually add to the feelings of stress rather than alleviate them. Take an honest look at your daily habits and give priority to the behaviors that will keep you healthy and protect you against stress.
Create balance. Operating with a leaner staff often means working under more pressure and longer hours.
Although it sounds counterintuitive to take on more activities, it is important to make time for interests, hobbies and passions in your free time. Doing the things you enjoy can help you refresh and energize your mind -- and that helps you deal more effectively with stress.
Use the resources at your disposal. Chances are, your organization has an employee-assistance program. When employees come to you with their troubles -- which can happen more often in a bad economy -- refer them to the EAP.
Also, consult with the EAP well before a layoff or reorganization announcement. Your EAP vendor can help you plan and strategize ahead of time, and this can greatly reduce the related stress and anxiety you may feel.
The EAP will be with you throughout the process, and can even help you on a personal level if you need someone to talk to about your own stress.
Bad economies come and go, but by taking steps to proactively address stress, you can survive -- and thrive -- as an HR executive.
Anita Madison is vice president of training and consulting at ComPsych Corp., provider of EAP, behavioral health, wellness and work-life services. A veteran of the HR industry, Anita is responsible for ComPsych's training programs, developing customized workshops and other HR services, analyzing customer organizational issues and providing one-on-one HR consultation to managers.