It’s no secret that our jobs can be stressful at times. The pressure of deadlines, meetings, calls, projects, and emails adds up and can impact you more than you even realize. While it’s natural to feel overwhelmed here and there, stress that becomes a part of your daily work life is a serious issue that must be alleviated.
August is National Wellness Month, created to help people focus on self-care, healthy routines, and importantly, managing stress at work. If you’ve ever felt strain in your job or know what it’s like to simply have too much on your plate, there are a number of steps you can take.
In a society where every email seems to be marked urgent, it’s critical to prioritize your responsibilities. Break down your tasks in many ways, prioritizing by the week, day, and, when necessary, even by the hour. At the same time, consider your high-level goals and objectives and prioritize your month, quarter, and year. This gives you a roadmap and helps you spot issues or conflicts early. That way, you can proactively reach out to your supervisor or peers for help rather than reaching the end of the week and experiencing the stress of scrambling to come up with a solution for an unfinished project.
While priorities can and will change in any workplace, having a plan will set your mind at ease and prevent stress from building. Walking into the office on a Monday morning and knowing exactly what to expect for your week is far better than living in the unknown. To help, consider utilizing an app or program made to manage your time and juggle various projects. While technology can add stress to our lives, it can also help alleviate it.
Finally, there are a number of publications on prioritization that will instruct you to gauge an assignment’s level of importance, the amount of effort it will take, and other factors to help place your to-dos in order. These are great tips, but take a page from Fast Company and go deeper by asking yourself three questions:
What is required of me in this role?
What produces the greatest results when I do it?
What is most fulfilling when I do it?
Use Your Vacation Time
Even the hardest workers in the world need a break. The only way to stay mentally sharp and feeling physically well is to fully utilize the vacation time given to you. Not doing so is when burnout and unproductivity happens, and that’s when stress levels rise. Unfortunately, many workers view vacation time as something to be taken for a very specific reason, like a big family vacation. This does not have to be the case and is often why people save up their vacation time only to take a fraction of it. In fact, only 28% of workers plan to take all their allowed vacation days this year, while 20% of people use a quarter or less of their time.
Dedication to your job is a good thing, but not when it negatively impacts your health. Look at your work calendar and plan a few vacation days spread out throughout the year for no reason other than to pause, take a break, and stay balanced with your personal life. A random Wednesday off in the middle of a month can do wonders to recharge and destress you. Even taking two hours of PTO at the end of a Friday in the summer can make you feel great as you beat traffic and enjoy a sunny afternoon in your own backyard.
Don’t Ignore Physical Health
When your body isn’t at its most healthy, neither is your mind. Stress grows more quickly when you’re feeling tired or weak. Take whatever steps necessary to make sure your body is primed to support your mind throughout the day. Go to sleep early. Exercise regularly and make those small decisions that add up, like taking the stairs, riding your bike to work, or going for a walk on your lunch break. Eat healthy lunches, drink plenty of water, and reach for an apple rather than a bag of chips when looking for that quick afternoon snack.
If possible, use a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other fitness tracker to monitor your activity and overall health. The more conscious you are of how much you move and what you eat, the more motivated you will be to maintain good health. Try out a meditation app that can help you breathe more fully and learn how to calm yourself in stressful situations. These combined efforts will make you feel good, and when you feel good, stress won’t affect you as strongly.
Talk it Out
Stress often arises out of miscommunication, and miscommunication happens when we don’t talk with each other enough. A lack of communication means we don’t know our coworker’s or manager’s intentions and make assumptions. Negative thoughts begin to fester and emotions can start to bottle up, placing extra strain on top of day-to-day stress. While some days you might just need to vent, make the effort to communicate openly and honestly all the time.
Being open with your colleagues or supervisor is vitally important in certain scenarios. Did you disagree with a recent business decision? Were you overlooked for the promotion you were waiting for? Are you being blamed for delaying a project when it wasn’t your fault? If so, talk to someone about it. Doing so helps you process the situation and, importantly, focus on solutions rather than problems. Understanding another’s perspective can go a long way to relieving your stress and realizing that an issue is not as big as it was in your head.
Put Things in Perspective
Unless you’re a surgeon and your job places you in life or death situations, take a step back from the desk and realize that it’s just work. Yes, every job is important. You’re making a difference to a company, community, and group of people. However, nothing is more important than your own well-being. After all, what’s the worst-case scenario if your project misses a deadline?
This doesn’t mean to look for excuses to slack off; it’s about understanding that things will be OK. The nature of work has changed over decades and centuries, moving from jobs that require physical effort to those that require heavy mental effort. Modern roles tax our brains and emotions, which is why it’s so important to take a breath. Even if something went wrong today, tomorrow is a new day to achieve your unattained goals.
Managing Stress at Work
Stress is a part of every job, but it’s not something you have to experience every day at debilitating levels. Take work one day at a time, using whichever steps help you prevent or alleviate stress. There’s no time like the present to make changes for the better. Right now, it’s Be Kind to Humankind Week; that includes being kind to yourself.
How have you managed workplace stress in the past? Let us know in the comments below!