Deal with it

Not all stress is bad and there are ways to deal with those obnoxious clients and co-workers, say Denis Grignon and Cinnamon Tousignant of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Stress is a healthy response that requires an emotional, physical or mental response. It can be a motivator and doesn’t have to be just a “negative,” Grignon says. But there are unhealthy ways of reacting to stress which include ignoring it, blaming others or becoming aggressive, unhappy or angry, he said.

Stress on the job can be created by situations ranging from organizational change and ever-changing goals, to job insecurity and the constant mantra of “doing more with less.” To counteract this, attempt to articulate or obtain clarity about roles, responsibilities, authority and deadlines, Grignon suggests.

Like your spouse, bosses and co-workers all have different personalities and take the influences of home to the job. So understanding where they are coming from is important. A little empathy with a co-worker who has been up all night with a sick child goes a long way to understanding their mood and ability to do the job that day, Grignon says.

“They have lives outside their jobs.”

Also, understanding the style of a person’s management approach gives you insight into what is expected and which colleagues “play games” and how to avoid getting drawn in.

Tousignant and Grignon offer a list of practical solutions to deal with stress:

  • Establish goals that are specific, measurable and achievable.
  • Write these down and identify short and long-term goals.
  • Divide the individual goals into “chunks” so that they can be worked on bits at a time.
  • Set priorities.
  • Practise the 4 Ds: dump, do, delegate and delay.
  • Focus on fitness and nutrition so that you are at your physical and mental best to deal with stress.
  • Use a buddy system to keep motivated.
  • Employ strategic relaxation techniques like “me time” for reading, meditating, a walk, etc..
  • Use physical techniques like squeezing and releasing your hand when a customer, co-worker or boss is stressing you out — rather than retaliating. Another technique is to hold your breath and press both sides of your neck, which actually lowers your heart rate.
  • Consciously change your negative thoughts into positive ones to build self esteem, focusing on achievements and increasing your productivity.
  • Practise the preceding.
  • If someone is arguing, don’t match their volume level. Speaking calmly will alter their behaviour as they tone down to match yours. Turn an argument into a conversation.
  • Strive for realism not perfection.
  • Say “no” when you know you can’t add one more thing to your plate rather than offering “I’ll try” and not delivering.
  • Acknowledge you will make mistakes.
  • Judge your “own” behaviour.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Ask for help — and take it.


Dealing with difficult behaviours requires understanding that “your office is a microcosm of the world” where there will be confrontation, arguments, needy-emotional people, bullying and those using passive/aggressive styles to get their own way.

So when you need to interact, be prepared to admit when you’re wrong; smile before starting the conversation; and check your stance and distance to the person so that your body language is not sending out the wrong message.

Restate what the issue of discussion is to make sure both of you are on the same page and acknowledge the feelings and emotions of others.

Beware of your reactions to others because you can control those 100% of the time.