How to handle workplace stress
If you’re like many folks, workplace stress impacts your life from time to time. It may even be your main cause of stress, outranking other common factors such as money problems or family issues. No matter the stressor, recognizing the dangers of excessive stress and developing healthy coping mechanisms is key to overcoming or at least reducing the impact workplace stress has on your health.
Indentify Your Stress
The first step in handling workplace stress is knowing what triggers your anxiety. For some, technology has led to an “always-connected” feeling–blurring the lines between work and home lives, leaving little space for downtime and relaxation. Others worry about downsizing or have anxiety about excessive workloads. Take some time to think about your emotions and identify specific situations causing your stress. Some people may find it helpful to write these down or to commiserate with friends or family. Remember, the end goal is to focus on what’s stressing you out, so don’t get distracted by comparing yourself to others.
Recognize How Stress Impacts Your Life
Being stressed out at work often means being stressed out at home as emotions are not easily contained by a work schedule. Forget the notion that you should “leave it at work” or “don’t bring it home with you.” Our modern lifestyles simply do not let us compartmentalize like we’re told by these old adages. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to snap at a family member at the end of a long workday or to continuously withdraw from social activities. Those are clear warning signs that you are experiencing excessive workplace stress.
Here’s a list of workplace stress signs and symptoms, as written by HelpGuide.org:
- Feeling anxious, irritable or depressed
- Apathy, loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Stomach problems
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of sex drive
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
Though some level of stress is normal, if it isn’t kept in check it could lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, back problems, depression, workplace injury or even suicide and cancer.
If you’re starting to really identify with the situations in this article, it’s clear that workplace stress is getting to you. Rest assured, you are not alone in your experience and there are healthy ways to help handle and mitigate workplace stress.
Personal workplace stress coping tips:
- Take time to focus on yourself. Try deep breathing techniques, walk over your lunch break or try a stretch routine. It’s amazing how physical activity can help lower stress levels.
- When it doubt, write it out. Use a list to prioritize your work and keep track of deadlines, goals and completed work.
- Communicate. When you’re stressed out, it’s easy to bottle up your feelings and before you know it, you stop sharing your ideas and conversations all together. Get out there and share your thoughts! Worried about not being professional? Sign-up for a crucial conversations class or do an internet search on how to deliver tough news appropriately.
- Build up your confidence. Stress often leads to low self-esteem. Focus on the things you do well, your positive traits and find new ways to build your own morale.
- Get inspired. When stress starts beating you down, lean on things you find inspirational and uplifting. Listen to your favorite music, read quotes, peruse internet memes—focus on whatever you enjoy.
- Empower yourself. No matter the situation, know that you have control over your life and can make decisions to change or improve it. This means internalizing the idea that each step, no matter how small, can be a step towards a less-stressful direction.
- Take initiative. Carefully review your responsibilities and strategize improvement opportunities that could be shared with your management.
- Be sure to utilize your vacation time. Being away for at least an entire work-week can have a dramatic impact on stress levels. PTO exists for a reason, don’t be afraid to use it.
- Set ground rules and boundaries. Every job and person is different; set realistic boundaries and stick to them.
- Seek positivity. Though it’s tempting to continually gripe about workplace problems, seek out and participate in positivity.
- Get help. If you’re having violent or suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately.
There’s a reason why airlines teach people to put their own oxygen masks on first before helping others—self-preservation is key. Your career and job responsibilities are important but it’s crucial to take the time and resources needed to help keep your stress levels in check. Your health depends on it.
Additional Stress Busting Resources:
- Stress Free Life Pinterest board
- Emotional Intelligence Toolkit – Five Step Program for managing overwhelming stress and emotions
- What’s Your Stress index – online test
- Search for additional stress-busting blogs.