Life is unpredictable, and unpredictable moments can create stress in our lives. Although stress is normal, excessive stress can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. At its worst, stress can paralyze you and keep you from doing your goals, pinning you down to a spot where you may feel trapped and burdened.
Easier said than done, stress can be hard to overcome, especially if you don’t know you are suffering from it. Awareness of your stress is the first step to helping you manage it. When you know you’ve reached your limit, it’s time to take a break and listen to what your body tells you. The following are tips to help you manage work stress and how you can overcome it to become more productive at work
Determine the primary cause of stress at work
Any problem can be easily solved by going back to its root cause. People fail at overcoming their stressors because they either choose to ignore it or live with it. There are many things that can cause stress at work. Sometimes it could be the people. It could be a micromanaging boss, an annoying coworker, or a problematic family member who’s hindering from giving your best at the job. When you frequently deal with such people, you become stressed and lose focus on your current task. Stress can be the greatest distraction in your life, if you let it rule over you. Once you determine the primary cause of stress, you can now think of ways to handle the situation.
Got a report that’s making your feel anxious and stressed? Do it. Have a coworker who’s downright annoying and hard to get along with? Talk to him. The first step to managing your stress is to deal with the person or the object that’s causing it. Once you’ve overcome the problem, you’ll have more confidence to deal with things. Ignoring or taking these stressors for granted can lead to bigger problems that will interfere with your job. By taking the time to solve the root cause of your stress you can accomplish a lot more.
Take Time to Relax
Everybody needs some downtime to relax. According to Richard Colgan, author of Advice to the Healer “When we are under extreme pressure, our bodies secrete a stress hormone called cortisol that can help us short-term, but if you’re stressed out constantly, these hormones aren’t as helpful and can become depleted over time.” Taking time to relax can help you recover from constant stress.
It doesn’t matter what type of activity you’ll be doing. If you feel relaxed going to a party or curling up with a good book at home, then so be it. Don’t overwork and make sure that you spend some of your time for things you love doing. By paying attention to your emotions and relaxing once a while you can reduce stress from work activities that drain your mind and body. Try yoga, meditation, walking or even simple relaxing activities like listening to music or taking a hot bath. You’ll be surprised how these activities can reduce your work stress.
Get Enough Rest
Not taking proper rest can leave your mind and body drained. Insomnia, lack of appetite and anxiety can all lead to stress and even more serious diseases. Well-rested people have better emotional balance; they can handle stress on the job and the workplace much better than people who are always lethargic and tired.
Prioritizing and organizing are known ways to handle stressful situations, especially if you don’t know what work to start with. It will give you a much clearer head if you sit down and take a moment to prioritize your options. An organized life can always free up your mind to deal with important work matters. Regain your control and increase your productivity by using apps that help you reach your maximum potential. There are apps like Wunderlist and Trello that will help sort out your appointments and files. Apps like Toggl and Time Tune will help you get the most out of your time.
Talk to a Friend
Sometimes all we need to feel less stressed is to have someone to talk to. The person doesn’t have to fix all your problems, he just has to be there to listen. Listening is a means of connecting. When you listen, you connect with other people who you give ability to understand your thoughts and feelings. Other emotion-based coping techniques like talking aloud to yourself or writing down your thoughts are also good options. The important thing here is that you have to let your feelings out. Sharing has positive emotional rewards contrary to keeping all your emotions bottled up forever. Someone with a supportive network of friends and family would be able to handle stress better than people who are lonely and isolated in life.
Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.
You have to work hard to develop the right skills
If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.
1. Make your presentation short and sweet
With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.
JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.
2. Open up with a good ice breaker
At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:
Tugging on their heart strings
Dropping a bombastic statement
Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons
You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.
3. Keep things simple and to the point
Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.
4. Use a healthy dose of humor
Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.
It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.
5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting
Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.
6. Practice your delivery
Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.
7. Move around and use your hands
Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.
8. Engage the audience by making them relate
Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.
9. Use funny images in your slides
Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.
10. End on a more serious note
When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.