Stress is part of everyday life. It’s our body’s natural response to change. It’s what motivates us to take action or make adjustments to our situation. And like everything else in our lives, stress needs to be managed to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
Sources of Work Stress
Our jobs are filled with different stressors. We have obligations to meet and expectations to uphold. We have deadlines to meet and piles of work to get through. For some people, the stress of not making enough money or the lack of growth potential weigh heavy on their minds.
Work stress may be the result of having no control over important decisions or could be because we don’t know what is expected of us. Stress can occur when we’re being pulled in opposite directions by too many bosses calling the shots or it may simply be that our job is boring and unengaging.
Not managing the stress we experience at work can begin to affect other parts of our lives, causing problems at home, with relationships, and negatively impacting your health. As a result, this building stress will ultimately affect your performance at work, putting your employment in jeopardy.
Signs You’re Overstressed at Work
When work stress gets to be too much you may find that you:
- Constantly worry about losing your job
- Work longer hours to impress the boss
- Feel pressure to meet high expectations
- Feel pressure to be available 24/7
- Experience low job satisfaction
Map Out Your Stress
The first step to managing work related stress is to take note of what is stressing you and how you respond to that stress. By identifying what is causing the stress, you can begin to determine which stressors you can control and which ones are beyond your control. Knowing where your power lies will greatly assist you in determining what you can change and what stressors need help from others.
After taking a closer look at how you are responding to stress at work, you can begin to find healthier and more effective ways of responding to those stressors. You may even notice the need to establish a better work-life balance by setting boundaries. For example, establishing a no emails after 7 pm can free you from feeling like you have to be available at all hours.
Work is an important part of life, but it shouldn’t be taking up all of your life. We have to take time for ourselves, forget about work for a few hours a day, and remind ourselves that family and friends are important too. We can’t be our best self at work if we don’t take time to care for ourself at home.
5 Steps to Managing Stress at Work
Step #1 Reach Out
- Talk about your work stress with someone close to you like your spouse, significant other, or a close friend or family member. Let them know you are not looking for solutions from them but rather just an open ear to listen and hear your hurt. Sometimes talking about it with someone will help you see the situation in a new light, often leading to a solution you’d never thought of before.
- Look for support from co-workers. Chances are they are experiencing the same pressures you are or perhaps they’ve overcome the same problems and can offer insight or suggestions. Creating a supportive work environment only comes from talking and helping each other out in time of need.
- If you don't have a support system of friends and family or co-workers, it’s never too late to make new friends. There are numerous opportunities to meet new people.
- Take a class - local colleges offer courses where you can learn something new while engaging with others without having to enroll in a full degree program.
- Join a group - sites like Meetup.com have social groups and hobby related gatherings where people can meet and share in the joy of a mutual interest.
- Find something new to do - wine and painting is a popular activity and studios have popped up all over, offering a relaxing way to wind down and meet new people.
- Become a volunteer - there are any number of causes in need of people who can give their time and energy towards bettering the lives of others. Doing something good for others will also give you a sense of accomplishment and reduce feelings of stress.
Step # 2 Support Health with Exercise and Nutrition
- Make exercise part of your daily routine. While 30 minutes a day is optimum, even a few minutes here and there throughout the day can help in reducing stress, improving your well-being. Exercise strengthens your body, releases endorphins, and provides bursts of activity for our sedentary lifestyles. Breathing exercises are another great way to improve your body and health and can be done any time of day.
- Smart food choices can have a big impact on reducing stress and repairing the body.
- Small, frequent meals help maintain blood sugar, maintaining energy, focus, and mood.
- Limit sugar and carbs that give quick boosts to energy and mood but hard crashes when all the sugar wears off leaving you feeling worse than before.
- Watch out for bad mood foods like caffeine, trans fats, and chemical laden products that can trigger our fight or flight system.
- Nicotine, first marketed as a stress reliever, has the exact opposite effect on the mind and body and leads to higher levels of anxiety.
- Alcohol may dull the anxiety temporarily but leaves you feeling more stressed when the buzz wears off because the stress is still there waiting for you.
Step #3 Sleep is Vital
Getting enough sleep is essential to good health and being able to perform at your best. Here are ways to improve your quality of sleep:
- Keep a consistent sleeping schedule, even on the weekends.
- Choose wisely what you consume, foods affect the ability to fall asleep and too much liquid before bed means frequent trips to the bathroom, disrupting sleep.
- No screen time at least an hour before bed. Light from tvs, and computer monitors reduce the body’s ability to produce melatonin.
- Spend time on quiet, relaxing activities before bed. Meditation is an easy way to become relaxed and ready for sleep.
Step #4 Time Management
Some of the stress we experience at work could be reduced by improving how we manage our time. For example:
- Reduce your morning commute stress by leaving a few minutes earlier.
- Take short breaks when you can to break up the monotony of work.
- Don’t over commit yourself to work or play. Know your limits and learn to say no.
- Learn proper task management when handling large workloads
- Prioritize order of importance
- Breakdown into small steps
- Delegate when possible
- Compromise where necessary
Step #5 Break Bad Work Habits
Often times we are our own worst enemy and work stress is no exception. The following changes can help reduce the stress you’re putting on yourself,
- Let go of perfectionism.
- Think positive.
- Know what’s in your control.
- Find humor where appropriate.
- Keep your work area clean and organized.
Take charge of your job and responsibilities by:
- Talking to your employer about issues.
- Get clarification of your job description.
- Change work environment or responsibilities, when possible.
- Take time off to regain a sense of self.
Find meaning and purpose even when you don’t love the work you do,
- Focus on what you do enjoy.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Look for ways to help others.
- Seek out better opportunities.