Deadlines, quotas and ever-increasing pressure to produce more with less can all contribute to workplace stress. In some ways stress is normal and, at moderate levels, can actually prove an effective means to stretch us to perform our best. But how do you know when your stress levels rise to a point where they actually hinder your performance, instead of helping? Here’s a few suggestions we compiled from our staff at Syndeo HR Outsourcing.

Let’s take a personal inventory to find out: First, do your efforts and accomplishments seem less satisfying than they used to? If so, you may be showing signs of excessive stress and even early burnout. Also, note your tolerance levels for the mistakes of others and even yourself. You might feel anxious and irritable in meetings, and during normal social and business interactions. Your confidence levels might decrease during intense stress at work. Problems and challenges that you once faced head-on might now seem overwhelming. In addition, if you have human resources responsibilities, for instance, bringing home issues such as benefits and payroll is a sign that you are experiencing undue stress.

One practical way to avoid the stress spiral is to be prepared in advance. When you know challenges are going to arise, a mental “girding up” may be in order to address stressful situations at work (or anywhere, for that matter). Without the element of surprise, stress seems to lose some of its punch. Another preventative tool is to plan your day and stick to your plan. It’s steady plodding that will win the day, and your emotional health at the end of it.

Another way to avert getting “stressed out” is to maintain a healthy regimen of sensible diet and exercise. What you eat can definitely affect your mood. High sugar levels can make you restless, while too much food at once can cause energy levels to decrease. Try to take short breaks at intervals and get away from the work completely. After a brief time, you’ll return to your work with renewed focus and energy.

There are so many factors that contribute to over-stress at work, but, fortunately, there are even more ways to cope. It starts by owning up to the fact that you can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to dealing with stress. Get in touch with those triggers and cues that tell you you’re getting over stressed, and then take measures to prevent, it or at least get it under control.  In short, “outsource” those issues right out of your work life!