Managing Stress in the Workplace

If you have ever had a job, then chances are you’ve experienced work-related stress. It can be as minor as an irritating co-worker, or as extreme as, in some professions, making decisions that can literally mean life or death. It’s not a question of whether or not you experience job stress, it’s a question of how much. High stress is more common than not, and it can cause serious problems not only on an emotional level, but also in a way that can impact your physical health. So before you find yourself sitting under your desk, rocking back and forth and snapping pencils in half, here are a few tips for keeping work-related stress under control:

Identify: You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what it is, so step back and think about what’s actually causing your stress. Is it a particular person? An overwhelming volume of work? A lack of direction or control? Once you’ve pinpointed the things that are causing you anxiety, you can begin to figure out ways to manage them.

Organize: Get yourself a planner, or utilize an online calendar, and get your schedule under control. Write everything out, schedule tasks, and assign deadlines.  Breaking down massive amounts of responsibilities into small, manageable units can sometimes soothe the mind and bring back a feeling of confidence and control. Cross off each task as you complete it, and you are likely to experience a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Focus: Stay on point with your tasks, and follow your schedule as best you can. If you have the type of job where things are constantly thrown your way unexpectedly, prioritize and adjust, but keep your focus on whatever the most important task is right now. 

Delegate: Many of us are driven by the notion that, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.” This philosophy is sure to set you up for loads of unnecessary stress, and letting go of it is difficult, but often vital to your well-being. If you’re in a position to delegate tasks, then do so. And if you don’t trust the people who work for you to get the job done right, then why do they work for you in the first place? 

Decline: If people keep adding to your workload, and you keep getting things done, then the pile in your Inbox will continue to grow. What your bosses and co-workers might not realize is that you’re working all weekend just to stay above water and maintain that “go-to person” image. Know your limits, and find your “no.” It’s okay to tell people when your plate is full.

Balance: While all of the above things might help manage stress, they won’t make it go away, so it’s important to balance out the negative effects with some positive actions. Add a brisk walk to your daily schedule, or take a few moments every day to breathe deeply and clear your mind. Make a soothing cup of tea, or just have yourself a good stretch. Figure out a few small things that make you happy, and try to incorporate them into your day.

Recharge: Use your down time wisely. Do your best to let go of whatever is happening in your work life, and really plug in to your actual life. Go out to dinner, shoot some hoops, read a book, get yourself a punching bag and beat the stuffing out of it, and while you’re at it…stop checking your emails. Training your brain to switch channels is very difficult in this career-driven society, but keep reminding yourself to try.

So, there you go. Your stress is cured and you’re all better, right? No, it’s probably a little more complicated than that. Being mindful of your stress is the first step, and all of the above tips can genuinely help manage it, but they don’t constitute a cure. Just remember that the way stress affects you is mostly up to you. Maintain a clear mind and a strong will, and if it helps…snap a few pencils.

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