Feeling frazzled by the stress of your workplace? You may struggle with keeping on top of a crushing workload or deal with dramatic co-workers. Or, you might find yourself feeling stretched too thin in your efforts to balance your career and family. Regardless of the cause of your feelings, you need to find strategies for coping with stress at work.
Stress and Your Health
Stress is detrimental to both your physical and your mental well-being. While the triggers that cause your stress won’t go away, you must implement measures to deal with your reaction to those feelings. Otherwise, it can lead to chronic stress over time. This can cause a variety of complications that create negative impacts on your life.
Here are a few of those possible outcomes:
- Anxiety or Panic Disorders
- Changes in eating patterns (over- or under-eating)
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Mood swings
- Substance abuse
- Upset stomach
- Sleep disorders
- Muscular pain
- Hypertension and cardiovascular disease
So, now that you know why it’s imperative to tame your reactions to stressors, let’s take a look at how you can manage this work stress.
1 - Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Work Day
One of the best ways to alleviate stress is physical activity. It distracts your mind and helps to release the negative feelings. Sneak in some exercise periodically throughout the day to clear your head and get re-focused on your tasks at hand. Some ideas:
- Take a brisk walk on your break or lunchtime
- Stand up and stretch once an hour or so if you’re seated most of the day
- Invest in a stand-up desk
- Do some seated exercises like arm circles or seated ab crunches
2 - Set Goals…and Plan How to Get There
Benjamin Franklin famously once stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Do you sometimes feel like you’re working in a landslide of paperwork? If your stressor is and overwhelming workload, consider setting goals and planning your work. Begin by setting a daily goal each day--consistently for two weeks. Then, make a daily plan, a to-do list that you can see. Physically check off items one at a time as you accomplish tasks. This will help you gain confidence that you can master that workload.
3 - Remain Nourished at Work
In stressful situations, it’s easy to reach for the comforting familiarity of snacks or fast foods. However, these foods can weigh you down and make you feel sluggish. In turn, you will become less productive and feel even more pressure—along with guilt from eating poorly. Eat a light but nutritious lunch and healthy snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon instead of eating one heavy mid-day meal.
While you’re trying out a new take on nourishment at work, back it up by drinking several glasses of water per day, too! These habits combined will help your body physically cope with the impacts of stress.
4 - Set Some Boundaries
Avoid office drama and gossip and, at the same time, ramp up your productivity by setting some boundaries with your co-workers. The past decade has brought with it a more relaxed workplace. While those relaxed rules make work a friendlier place, it makes some people too, well…friendly.
If your co-workers see the workplace as the place to complain or socialize, it is easy to get caught up in the drama. This scenario negatively impacts your work production and can make you feel drained in the process. Learn to set boundaries. Gently but firmly let co-workers know when you don’t have the time for a chat. Excuse yourself from the guilt of saying no. After all, you are at work to advance your career not for relaxing.
5 – Practice Visualization
Do you know what you need to do to conquer your workplace stress but can’t quite wrap your mind around how to take the vital first step? Try practicing visualization.
Close your eyes for a minute or two. In your mind’s eye, see yourself moving forward in dealing with your stressor. Whether it’s slashing though an enormous pile of work or opting out of wasting time around the water cooler, imagine how you can take charge of the situation. In time, you will become confident enough to physically take the first step that you need in coping with your work stress.
6 - Take a Deep Breath
You become energized when you take deep breaths as you deliver a burst of oxygen that sparks creativity in your brain. This means that another effective means of coping with work stress is to take a deep breath, literally! Try some simple deep breathing exercises. Breathe in deeply through your nose and gently exhale through your slightly parted lips for two to three minutes. You will feel reawakened by this exercise. Not sure how to get started? Look for an app on your smartphone or fitness watch—they can guide you through several deep breathing exercises.
7 – Maintain Your Sense of Humor
Comedian Bob Newhart once said, “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” There’s some real wisdom in that statement. Have you ever been in a predicament at work when the situation felt so out of hand that you couldn’t help but to laugh? That’s your body’s natural fight or flight assisting you in taking a step back from the situation and putting into perspective. So, keep your head up and don’t be afraid to laugh when it’s warranted.
It’s important to cope with stress at work instead of trying to dodge it completely. Avoiding the stress will only hold you back in your career while the pressure continues to escalate. Once that occurs, your physical and mental health can begin to decline. In fact, it can spill over even further and impact your personal relationships, infecting every area of your life.