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How to Handle Workplace Stress

Everyone who has ever had a job has felt some sort workplace, or work-related, stress. Whether you’re working in an office, in a restaurant, or from your home, any job will have some stressful parts. Maybe it’s a upcoming deadline that you weren’t given enough time to prepare for, or you have a big client you’re looking to impress, or the kitchen is backed up and you have to explain why food isn’t coming out in a timely manner. All of these issues are valid, and it’s okay to feel stress sometimes! Life wouldn’t be life without the occasional stressor. The issue with workplace stress is when it becomes constant, or causes disruption in other areas of your life when you’re not working or at the office.

Constant stress can become overwhelming if not addressed, and if it continues for the long-term it can cause burnout and become harmful to both your emotional and physical health.

According to the American Psychological Association, some common workplace stressors for the modern working person includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations

  2. Not enough control over job-related decisions

  3. Lack of support in and out of the workplace

  4. Work that isn’t challenging or engaging

  5. Few opportunities for growth or advancement

  6. Excessive workloads for a single person

  7. Low salary or compensation for work requirements

If workplace stress is left unchecked, it doesn’t disappear when you clock out for the day or answer your last email. Persistent stress can have a negative effect on your personal well-being.

The American Psychological Association says, “A stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol.”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you may be experiencing workplace stress. While up and quitting may alleviate your stress all in one go, it’s not usually financially viable. Read below for some ways to help you reduce your workplace stress and get back to a solid work and life balance.

Identify Triggers

One of the best places to start is to look at what causes particularly intense feelings of stress. Keep a physical journal or take digital notes on your personal computer or mobile phone during or after situations that cause you stress and your initial response to those feelings of stress. Once you know what is causing you stress, you can find ways to cope with it or keep yourself from being blindsided by your feelings of stress. You may not know what is causing you stress in the workplace, and keeping written record can help you identify patterns in your work day that can be stressful. It could be anything from an unexpected deadline, a particularly difficult client meeting, or conflict with a co-worker or supervisor. Once you identify your triggers, put a plan in place to deal with them, like taking deep breaths, going for a long walk outside, or zoning out for a few minutes with some calming music. Find what works for you.

Focus on Your Body

When you’re stressed, you may turn to comfort food for temporary relief, or you may find yourself lying awake at night thinking about the emails in your inbox. Neither of these are good for your body or your soul, and taking time to focus on your body may help you combat these negative reactions to workplace stress. If you tend to snack on unhealthy food when you’re at work, keep fresh fruit or other healthy snacks on hand. Eating fruits and vegetables is much better for your body than eating a bag of chips if you’re stressed! It may also help to take up an exercise or workout routine if you don’t have on already. Working out before work or after work can help you burn extra energy and can help you unwind and release some of the tension from your stressful day before your head hits the pillow.

Mental Health is Important

Stress can take over our minds, and if you already struggle with mental health, additional stress can make all of your other symptoms harder to deal with. Although work is important so we can afford to live and hopefully find fulfillment through our work, it is not the most important thing in your life. Taking care of yourself and your health should always take priority over your job.

One way to help to focus on you and your mental health includes regular mediation (even if it’s only a couple minutes a day!) so you can figure out what’s really important, and take your focus off of what is causing you stress. Once you feel calm and are in a good state of mind, you can look at what is stressing you out and approach it with positivity and open-mindedness, rather than fear and stress.

It’s also okay to exercise your use of the word “no”! If you’re already overworked or overcommitted, and you say “yes” to additional tasks or responsibilities, you risk burning yourself out with too much work or commitments. It’s okay to say no, and that doesn’t make you a bad person. You can be polite and firm in your response to others, and just explain to them that you’ve already got a lot on your plate, and you’re just not capable of adding another thing to your to-do list. When you try to take on too much, the quality of what you’re doing can suffer, and it can cause extra stress in your life that you don’t have to deal with. Decide what is a priority for you and your time, and stick with it!

Schedule your Day

Most of us have 8 hour work days, and while sometimes it’s nice to think we can be 100% productive for 8 hours straight to get all our work done, this just isn’t a sustainable habit, and trying to do this every day can have you overly stressed out in no-time. The best way to keep yourself from falling into a trap of constant grinding it to schedule out your day, and include breaks! That could include going for a walk, doing stretches at your desk, or even a quick 10-minute time-out to call a friend or family member, or listen to an e-book or other enjoyable activity. People weren’t meant to sit in one place and stare at a screen all day, and that includes you! Try to make a habit of taking a 10-minute break for every 90 minutes of work, even if you have to set a timer! Knowing that you have a break coming up means you can spend the time you are working more focused and typically more productive.

Communicate Effectively

Communication can be difficult, especially when you’re feeling stressed about an upcoming deadline or project. The best way to battle stress in this case is to try to be as open as possible with your team, co-workers or supervisor. If you’re unclear about the requirements for a project or for you position in general, raise your hand and speak up! Making sure you know what is expected of you helps eliminate extra anxiety and stress as you approach a deadline, and you’ll know that what you turn in will be exactly what your team or supervisor is looking for.

Anytime you’re having a hard time, whether it be with your mental health, a personal issue, or a workplace issue, being honest and open upfront will benefit you in the long-term, and can help you feel less stress about work performance.

Thank you for visiting Cheerful Hearts by LauraBeth Ryan, a person that can help you with workplace stress and anxiety online life coach. We hope that you’ve found this blog helpful in taking the first step in improving your workplace stress! If you or someone you know needs a personal empowerment coach, contact LauraBeth today.

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