As we all know, work can be stressful. Now, while we can expect some stress in the workplace, excessive stress is never a good thing. Too much stress can interfere with your productivity, and can affect your physical and emotional health. Your ability to deal with workplace stress can be the difference between success and failure. According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress costs U.S. businesses more than $300 billion annually due to increased absences, decreased productivity and medical expenses.
Workers these days are familiar with terms like “layoffs” and “budget cuts”. These terms increase fear and uncertainty in the workplace, leading to higher levels of stress. Higher levels of stress can affect the way you deal with others. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you.
Of course, you already know you can’t control everything in your work environment. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes like quitting your job. It’s more about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control…YOU!!!
The following 4 suggestions will help you learn how to manage your workplace stress.
Strategies for Managing Workplace Stress
Tip 1: Recognize the Warning Signs
When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn. This can make you less productive and less effective in your job. It can also make the work seem less rewarding. If you ignore the warning signs of work stress, they can lead to bigger problems.
Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
- Loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
Common causes of excessive workplace stress
- Fear of being laid off
- More overtime due to staff cutbacks
- Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
- Pressure to work at optimum levels all the time!
Tip 2: Don’t Allow your Job to Control Your Life
In the past, people stopped working at 5 PM when the workday was over. In today’s business environment, workers often feel pressured to work (or at least be available) 24/7. Needless to say, that pressure generates tons of stress. An easy way to reduce that stress is to turn yourself off from work. Unless you’re being paid to be available 24/7, you do have that right. Shut off your computer. Set your phone to “do not disturb” or sleep mode”. Once you set the times, your phone will not ring or vibrate for “unwanted” calls.
This takes discipline because you’re probably used to checking emails and texts all the time. This also takes self-confidence. Some workers think that we need to be at the constant beck and call of their boss, colleagues, and customers. Challenge yourself and do it anyway. If you’re stressed out, you’re no good to anyone anyway. Quality over quantity, right??
After you have successfully turned yourself off from work, do something relaxing. Read a book, take a long bath, light some candles, work in your yard or garden, etc. Whatever it is that you find comfort in…JUST DO IT!!
If you find yourself getting stressed while you’re at work, there are some things you can do as well:
- Watch this brief “Quick Calm” video. You’ll learn a simple but powerful technique to instantly reduce stress. Bookmark it or add it to your playlist so you can get to it quickly when stress mounts.
- Get a free account at live365.com and subscribe to the meditation channel. When you need a calming break, put on some headphones and listen to some of the soothing tunes they offer.
- Take a class. Learn it Live features hundreds of classes focused on health and well-being. The best thing is most of them are FREE. The classes pre-recorded so you can watch during your lunch hour.
Tip 3: Move Your Body
We all know that regular exercise is the best stress reliever. It may be the last thing you feel like doing but once you do it you immediately feel better so why not? You just have to push yourself. Aerobic exercise is a great and effective way to lift your mood and increase your energy. It also sharpens your focus and relaxes both the mind and body. Try walking, dancing, swimming, or playing with your kids. For best results, try to get at least 30 minutes of activity that elevates your heart rate and makes you break out into a sweat.
Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are a few easy ways:
- Put on some music and dance around
- Go for a walk with your dog
- Take a bike ride
- Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
- Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
- Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
- Play an activity-based video game with your kids
Tip 4: Prioritize and Organize
When workplace stress threatens to overwhelm you, there are simple steps you can take to regain control of yourself and the situation. Here are some suggestions for reducing job stress by prioritizing and organizing your responsibilities:
Time management tips for reducing workplace stress
- Create a balanced schedule. “All Work and NoPlay” is a recipe for burnout. Try to find some balance between work and family life, social activities, daily responsibilities, and downtime.
- 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, drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary.
- Try to leave earlier in the morning. Even 10-15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing to your desk and having time to ease into your day. Don’t add to your stress levels by running late.
- Plan regular breaks. Make sure you take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind. Get away from your desk for lunch. Stepping away from work to briefly relax and recharge will help you be more, not less, productive.
Task management tips for reducing workplace stress
- Make a list of your tasks, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items 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.
- If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Remember, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Delegate some of those responsibilities. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
- Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to contribute differently to a task, revise a deadline, or change their behavior at work, be willing to do the same. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone.
The way you deal with workplace stress is under your control. Know your stress triggers, and learn what type of stress reduction works best for you. Knowing how to recognize and manage your stress is the most valuable leadership skill you can master.