We're all stressed by our jobs at one point or another. Most of us feel there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done. There are a number of causes of stress in the workplace: low salaries, difficult jobs (or conversely, the lack of a challenge), no control over one’s own position, limited or no opportunities for advancement - the list goes on and on. You probably have a few reasons of your own that you could add to the list!
Too much stress at work isn't good for your mental health or your productivity. While a little bit of stress can sometimes serve to motivate, too much can make you overwhelmed and scattered. So, how do we de-stress? Drop your to-do list for a few minutes and check out our easy ways to relieve stress.
Your messy office could be making you stressed, even if the work itself isn’t stressful! One of my former bosses used to tell me, “every paper has its place.” And she was right! If I took ten extra seconds to file something away where it belonged, it lessened my desk clutter, and made items easier to find.
Scott Roewer, the owner of Solutions by Scott & Company, suggests dividing your papers into three categories. They could be “reference, action, and recycle,” “call back, file, and send out,” or whatever makes the most sense to you. If your desk is usually messy, you will be amazed at how a clean desk makes you feel. Rejuvenated!
Obvious, right? Not always. We are constantly being interrupted- by co-workers, clients, and unforeseen issues. Don’t let the interruption throw you off, even if you must drop what you are doing to address it. Roewer suggests writing yourself “a quick reminder... about what and where you left off.” That way it will be easier to get your work going again, and you’ll be less stressed.
You can also learn to identify times when you can disengage from an interruption. Boss likes to “pop in” for a chat? Particular client has taken a strong liking to you? Don’t let those situations ramp up your anxiety. Figure out when it’s appropriate to remind them in a nice way that you ’re busy. But you will get back to them. For some, occasionally working from home helps alleviate these distractions and boosts productivity.
When you start worrying or stressing, take a second and check in with yourself. Why are you feeling that way? What exactly about the situation is causing you undue stress? It may sound touchy-feely, but identifying your emotions can help you sort things out. Then, tackle the problem step-by-step. Create a new roadmap with checkpoints. You’ve conquered tough projects before, and you can do it again.
Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with everything that has to be done now, today, tomorrow, next week, next month... that the task in front of us seems impossible (or futile). When projects pile up, take a moment to hit "reset" and prioritize instead of focusing on the future to-do list. Of course, planning for the future is important, but instead of letting work crush you, crush it! In a systematic fashion: one step at a time.
Your coworkers can have a huge effect on your attitude. You spend countless hours with these people, after all! If they're stressed or complain about their jobs, they will drag you down! Hang out with people who are fun, relaxed, and supportive - their good vibes will rub off on you. Even if you're not the best of friends, spending your working hours with positive people will cause your stress level to go down. If you’re the upbeat one, find opportunities to pick up those around you. They will appreciate it, and everyone’s days will be a little better.
It might sound cheesy, but actively thinking about the reasons you are grateful at work will help you stay positive, even if the reasons are small. Then, share your positive attitude with your coworkers: a quick comment about how you love the candy bowl in the kitchen, or how you’re glad the company offers great benefits, or that you’re happy to be working on a new project. Your fellow employees will start to feel better, too! Personally, I’m grateful - no - THRILLED about the wide variety of coffee options in my office.
Okay, don’t laugh. It actually works. Certified life coach Judith Tutin, PhD says that “deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.” Try it right now! Slowly breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. You’ll start to feel calmer instantly.
If appropriate at your office, pop in those headphones! Music is motivating and calming - and an instant stress reliever.
Once upon a time, I had a job at a legal clinic that was high pressure, high stakes, and high stress. It was enough to make me lose sleep and feel on edge even on the weekends. How did my coworkers and I deal? We slipped in humor whenever we could. We took every (appropriate) opportunity to make each other laugh. We plastered each others’ offices with cat memes when someone went out of town. We filmed short clips of “lawyers talking science” (we'd pick a scientific phrase at random, and try to guess what it meant. The results were incorrect and highly humorous). Our bosses didn’t mind if we took a few minutes to watch a funny clip online, and they encouraged us to talk about our lives and have a laugh. They trusted that we were getting our work done. That took away some of the pressure of our difficult jobs, and made our workplace as happy as it could be.
We know you have a lot to do, but getting regular exercise will help you be more productive, and in turn, be less stressed. Do morning yoga! Go for a run! Whatever you do, it’ll help you stay calm.
Outside of work, that is! Lean on your support system when you need to, and do the things you enjoy. Use your vacation time; it’s there for a reason. Vacation is important because it helps you rest and recharge. Can’t afford a cabana on a Greek island? No problem. Go somewhere nearby just for a change of scenery, or just have a staycation! It’s good for your mental health.
Don’t just accept stress at work as a part of life. Successfully de-stressing and re-energizing makes us more productive and happier to be at work. And bosses - make sure you facilitate a work atmosphere that’s as stress free as possible. Let your employees take their breaks, don’t give them a hard time about vacation, and keep that candy bowl filled.
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