While some workplace stress is normal, but excessive stress can interfere with our productivity and performance and impact our physical and emotional health. It can affect our relationships and home life and can even mean the difference between success and failure in our jobs. We can’t control everything in our work environment, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless, even when we are stuck in a difficult situation. Whatever your work demands, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress, improve your job satisfaction, and bolster your well-being in and out of the workplace.
It’s important to remember that stress, isn’t always bad, we need a little bit to help us stay focused, energetic and able to meet challenges in life and in the workplace. It’s what keeps us on our toes during a presentation or alert to prevent accidents or costly mistakes. But in today’s hectic world, the workplace often seems like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, and increasing demands can leave us feeling worried, drained, and overwhelmed. When stress exceeds our ability to cope, it stops being helpful and starts causing damage to our mind and body, as well as to our job satisfaction. If the stress of your job is interfering with your work performance, health, or personal life, it’s time to change this. There are many things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control at work. The first few tips link into general stress tips that we all know make common sense to improve our overall health and wellbeing and we will cover them in more detail in a separate post. Our 5 tips for work stress are
Tip 1: Don’t isolate yourself, talk about it and cultivating supportive relationships both personally and at work. Sometimes the best stress-reducer is simply sharing your stress with someone who understands you. It gives you relief, don’t keep things in.
Tip 2: Support your health with exercise and nutrition, we all know that when you’re overly focused on work, it’s easy to neglect your physical health. But when you’re support your health with good nutrition and exercise, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress.
Tip 3: Don’t skimp on sleep, skimping on sleep leaves interferes with your daytime productivity, creativity, problem-solving skills, and ability to focus. If you have trouble sleeping use meditation apps or relaxing music to help you wind down and get you into the relaxed zone. It really recharges you.
Tip 4: Come off the Autopilot, when job and workplace stress overwhelms you, consider simple, practical steps you can take to regain control by creating a balanced schedule and build awareness of what is going on at work. Be more mindful and find ways to deliberately prioritize and organize yourself.
Leave earlier in the morning. Even 10-15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing and having time to ease into your day. Don’t add to your stress levels by running late.
Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely. Learn how to say no, this is not helpful to me and will create more stress or isn’t possible.
Prioritize tasks. Tackle high-priority tasks first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result. Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
Put “you time” on the to do list. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find ways to get a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime by creating cut off time between one and the other. Look at your week schedule in work time, family time, you time.
Give yourself top up time and plan regular breaks or top up time in your day or week. It doesn’t have to be a long or expensive thing and it can be anything, having a tea break or other short breaks throughout the day to recharge, take a walk round the office/ building or chat to a friendly face. Take a three-minute breathing space and try to get away from your desk for lunch. It will help you relax and recharge and be more, not less, productive. Just like your phone you need to get a boost a recharge or you won’t work as well.
Establish healthy boundaries. We need to learn self -care and how to be kind to ourselves. Many of us feel pressured to be available 24 hours a day or obliged to keep checking our phones for work related messages and updates. It you don’t switch off from media and technology you won’t be able to slow down your mind and work thoughts. It is not good for us to be constantly switched on. It’s important to maintain periods where you’re not working or thinking about work. That may mean switching off your phone and set a time limit on the hours you are working and making a conscious decision not checking emails or taking work calls at home in the evening or at weekends. If that is not in your contract, then why are doing this? What are your gaining by doing this and what are your loosing and what advice would give to a friend who did this?
Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself, do you? Let go of the desire to control every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process. Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little at work, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone.
Tip 5: Come into your internal world and work on your negative thoughts and behaviour. Many of us make our job stress worse with our own negative thoughts and behaviour. Our inner critics can take us off onto many trains of thought that are not necessarily good one. It’s about learning ways to manage our inner critic, our negative thoughts. When we are mindful and notice, what we are thinking and what we do to ourselves with this thinking, we can turn around these self-defeating habits, and we can find that employer-imposed stresses are easier to handle. Here are some habits that we do and some ways that we can help ourselves:
Resist perfectionism. Perfect doesn’t exist, and if it did we can’t be perfect not all the time, but doing our best does. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, you’re setting yourself up to fall short. Aim to do your best you can with what you’ve got and you will feel more satisfied. For not being able to be perfect, makes us feel bad about ourselves and gets that inner critic up and running and gets us feeling down.
Flip your negative thinking. If you focus on the downside of every situation and interaction, you’ll find yourself drained of energy and motivation. Try to think positively about your work, avoid negative thinking colleagues or keep out of their drama and pat yourself on the back about small accomplishments, even if no one else does.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Take a breath a step back to work out what’s is the employer or another person’s issue and what’s yours. Many things at work are beyond our control, particularly the behaviour of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, we have to accept certain things and then focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to the situation or the problem. Something’s need to come out into the open before they can change.
Look for humour in the situation. Laughter is the best medicine when used appropriately, humour is a great way to relieve stress in the workplace. Don’t buy into the drama. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or funny story.
Take responsibility for you and what you can do for you. If you’re always running late, set your clocks and watches fast and give yourself extra time. If your desk is a mess, file and throw away the clutter; just knowing where everything saves time and cuts stress. Small ways to create more control not more stress, make all the difference.
Talk to your employer about workplace stressors. Rather than rattle off a list of complaints, see if you can find ways to let your employer know in a productive way about specific conditions that are impacting your work performance. You might be able to work something out together. Healthy and happy employees are more productive, so your employer has an incentive to tackle workplace stress whenever possible.
Clarify your job description. Ask your supervisor for an updated description of your job duties and responsibilities. You may then be able to point out that some of the things you are expected to do are not part of your job description and gain a little leverage by showing that you’ve been putting in work over and above the parameters of your job.
Consider requesting a transfer or try something new. If your workplace is large enough, you might be able to escape a toxic environment by transferring to another department or ask for new duties. If you’ve been doing the exact same work for a long time, ask to try something new or go on a short course to refresh skills or work at a different grade level, or on a different project /task a different machine.
Take time off when you need to. If your feeling overwhelmed and burned out, it’s important to find ways to take time out and recharge the batteries, before it’s too late. We have to take responsibility for ourselves. Thus, maybe we need to have a complete break from work or go on a holiday, mini break or just spend some time at home on. Sometimes if things are bad we may need to ask for a temporary leave-of-absence, anything to remove yourself from the situation and give yourself a way to use the time to recharge your batteries and get a perspective on your situation. Sometimes we need to take a step back to see things clearly and to be able to help ourselves and find a plan- don’t wait till your burned out.
Be proactive about your job and your workplace duties, be aware of when busy times or time or demands are coming and have a plan for ways to get mini breaks stress relief. When we feel uncertain, helpless, or out of control, our stress levels are the highest. Sometimes we just need to make small changes to help us regain a sense of control over your life and your job.