Work-related pressure can get the best of us all sometimes. Teams messages, emails, phone calls, and impromptu meetings are enough to leave anyone frazzled. Feeling some stress is normal, especially if you face a looming deadline or demanding assignment. However, when work stress becomes persistent, it can affect your physical and emotional well-being.
Experiencing work stress is unavoidable, even if you love what you do. Still, you can take steps to keep job stress to a minimum. Here are some ways to keep work stress from taking over your life.
Write down your stressors.
Recognizing and documenting stressful situations can help you realize what’s bothering you. Some of these can be small sources of tension, such as an uncomfortable workspace or a long commute. Try keeping a journal for one week to keep track of your stress triggers and reactions to them. Include the people, places, and events that gave you a physical, mental, or emotional response.
As you write, ask yourself:
- How did this make me feel? (Afraid, angry, hurt?)
- What was my reaction? (Did I visit the vending machine afterward or go for a walk?)
- What are some ways of resolving it? (How can I find solutions to this stressor?)
Recognize how stress affects you.
This strategy might sound too simple, but it’s easy to miscalculate how much stress affects you. Take note if you find yourself emotionally exhausted and cynical by the end of the day. Long-term exposure to unmanaged stress can take a toll on your body and mental health. Recent research suggests a potential link between work-related burnout and depression and anxiety. Signs of stress can include low energy or fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and changes in appetite.
Refine your time management skills.
Sometimes, feeling swamped by work comes down to your organizational skills. Try establishing a priority list at the start of your workweek by preparing tasks and ranking them according to importance. You can also defeat procrastination by setting aside specific time blocks for deep concentration work.
Balance your work and personal life.
Being available around the clock will quickly burn you out. It’s essential to create clear boundaries between your work and home life to help you avoid potential stress. Part of this strategy means setting aside time for socialization and creating rules for when you’ll check emails or take phone calls.
Re-evaluate your negative thoughts.
When you’ve faced worry and chronic stress for an extended time, your mind tends to jump to conclusions and read into every situation with a negative lens. For example, if your boss doesn’t say hi to you first thing in the morning, you might think, “they’re mad at me.” Instead of making automatic judgments, try distancing yourself from your negative thoughts and observing.
Rely on a solid support network.
Keep in touch with trusted friends and family members to help manage stressful work situations. If you’re struggling with an incredibly demanding work week, try asking parent friends if they can help carpool your kids to school on certain days. Having people you can rely on during the tough times can alleviate some of the built-up tension.
Take time to recharge.
Taking even a few minutes of personal time during a busy day can help prevent burnout. Listening to an appealing podcast between meetings or watching a funny YouTube video can give you relaxing pauses throughout the day. It’s also important to take breaks from thinking about your job by not checking work-related emails on your time off or disconnecting from your phone in the evenings.
Take care of yourself.
Setting aside time for self-care is a must if you regularly feel overwhelmed by work. Using this tactic means prioritizing sleep, setting aside time for fun, and ensuring you’re eating throughout the day.
Learn relaxation methods.
Intentionally slowing down and being mindful of your environment can keep you relaxed throughout the week. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness all work to calm your anxiety. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on being present and enjoying a simple activity, whether a short walk around the park or appreciating a meal at your desk. You could also build mindfulness into your routine by downloading a meditation app or pausing for a few moments before starting your workday to set your intentions.
Stay out of office gossip.
Workplace disputes can take a significant toll on your emotional well-being. Try to avoid participating in gossipy situations. If you know that one of your colleagues is especially prone to gossip, find a way to spend less time with them or change the conversation subject to safer topics.
Some other strategies for staying out of the fray include emphasizing the positive, ignoring the conversation, changing the subject to something unrelated, and walking away.
Let go of perfectionism.
If you need to get that presentation just right or find yourself working extra hours perfecting a report you finished days ago, it may be time to take a step back and reflect. Perfectionism has some positive benefits, but it can also be highly stressful and lead to burnout. Try to keep your high standards in check by focusing on your effort in a project and not personalizing failure when you make a mistake.
Talk to your supervisor.
Getting support from your boss can drastically relieve feelings of burnout. Set up a quiet time to talk with them and calmly discuss feeling overwhelmed by challenging tasks. Approach the conversation from a problem-solving place instead of listing out complaints.
For example, you could say you want to revisit what’s expected of you outside of working hours because things feel a bit overwhelming. The point is to find a resolution that helps reduce strain.
Work stress is something that a lot of people deal with. It can be easy to try and push through the stress, but ultimately, you’re doing yourself a disservice. By setting boundaries and taking time to step away from work, you can avoid feeling burnt out and put your best foot forward.