How to Maintain Performance When You’re Stressed Out

BY Kathy Crosett
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The new year is underway and you might already be struggling to keep your resolutions. Maybe you signed up to meet a huge quota when you were feeling particularly confident at the end of last year, and now you’re having second thoughts. Or maybe your sales manager has asked you to finally close the deal with the prospect who has been putting you off for months. All of this pressure might happen exactly when the company adopts a new sales tracking system you supported and offered to help implement. Don’t stress. Gwen Moran compiled coping tactics to try the next time your job worries are keeping you up at night.

Take Control

Instead of breathing into a paper bag to stop hyperventilating the next time everything falls apart, step back and consider taking a strategic approach. Start by figuring out what you can control, advises Matthew Digeronimo, a guy who knows about stress after his years of service as a nuclear submarine lieutenant commander. Review your situation to see if you can propose an extension to a looming deadline. Ask if you can borrow a high-​performing staff member from another department if you have to finish a critical task. And, if the workplace scene is stressing you out – maybe your boss is breathing down your back – arrange to work from home for a day or two in order to complete the critical project.

Slow Down

The more stressed you feel, the more quickly you might want to work. That would be a mistake. The stress combined with speed will lead to errors in judgement and in the details of the work you’re producing. Instead, take a deep breath and slow down.


While you’re slowing down, prioritize your tasks. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you think every item on your list has to be done right now. Alicia H. Clark, adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, suggests that you cut back or postpone some tasks. Could you put off the monthly status report your boss wants to see? Can you reschedule the training you signed up for?

The experts point out  “part of the anxiety that occurs during such urgent situations comes from feeling a loss of control.” Take a few minutes to put some back into your schedule, and you’ll find a way to survive, and maybe even thrive, while you complete the urgent work.