Do you have a stressful job? Many of us do. According to Officevibe, a company that tracks employee feedback, “76 percent of people cite money and work as the leading causes of their stress.” Tinycon says, “According to our 2015 Employee Engagement Report, a majority of workers feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the workweek to get everything done.”
With ever-increasing stress levels at the office, it’s difficult to avoid stress-related illnesses and burnout. If you’re facing a stressful work environment, or you have a tendency to feel anxious while you’re on the job, we’ve got a few tips to help you cope with stress at work.
1. Begin With a Better Morning Routine
Often, we arrive at our jobs already a little stressed out. We wake up with enough time to get clothes on and grab a coffee, rush through morning traffic hoping not to hit red lights, wish we had time for a bagel and get to the office on empty. When we enter our workplace already a bit frazzled and exhausted, we’re more likely to experience reactive stress to the demands of the job.
When you know you’re about to go into a stressful situation at work, prepare for it. Wake up about 45 minutes earlier than normal to include some of these activities in your morning routine:
- Spend some time in meditation, prayer, deep breathing or other quiet contemplation before you even get out of bed.
- Breathe in some fresh morning air outside as you take a short walk.
- Eat a healthy and balanced breakfast.
Spending a little more time preparing for the day will give you a leg up when you face difficulties at work. You’ll be more likely to react to workplace stressors with a level head.
2. Clarify Your Job Responsibilities and Expectations
The United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that one of the significant causes of workplace stress is poorly defined work roles. When you don’t have a clear idea of what exactly your actual job is, it’s difficult to know if you’re doing well at it or doing enough.
This is where your boss can help. Schedule an actual face-to-face meeting with your superior if that’s possible. If not, schedule a phone meeting or video conference. Then, get official clarification on what your job duties are and what they’re not. Document and save this information. If or when your job description changes, update your notes. When you’ve got clear directives and a list of expectations, you’ll feel less stress and uncertainty on the job.
3. Go in Early to Organize Your Workspace
Chaos breeds more chaos. If your desk is a mess and you can’t ever find your paperclips, you’re adding to your stress levels at work. Pick a day this week and go in early to organize and clean up your work area. Then, take time, at the end of your workday, to tidy it up again so that you’re ready for the next workday.
4. Manage Your Time Well on the Job
Be at work when you’re at work. It’s common these days to see coworkers on their phones scrolling social media on company time, then complaining that they can’t meet a deadline. Behaving in such a way brings on stress and pressure.
Use your time better. Schedule your day. Put away distractions, turn your cellphone to silent and mentally clock-in. Here’s an example of a well-managed schedule:
- 8 a.m.: Arrive at work, and check voicemail and calendar for the day.
- 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m.: Conference with Dan and Accounting
- 10 a.m.-10:15 a.m.: Morning break; make a dentist appointment, and text Julie about tonight
- 10:15 a.m.-11 a.m.: Check and return emails
- 11 a.m.-Noon: Finish up work on file #34
- Noon-1 p.m.: Lunch; 20-minute walk, 20-minute lunch, and call home to check-in
- 1 p.m.:-2 p.m.: Meet with marketing team about a new promotion
- 2 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: Check and return emails
- 2:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.: Afternoon break; call mom about the reunion
- 2:45 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: Data entry and filing
- 4:30 p.m.-5 p.m.: Clean up workstation, and create an action list for tomorrow
Your particular job has a unique set of things that need to be done each day. However, if you know that by the end of your shift, you need to have certain tasks completed, schedule them. You’ll find yourself feeling less pressure when you know what you’re doing, when and for how long. Utilize your breaks wisely so that you can handle any personal or non-work-related business off the clock.
5. Stay Out of Dramatic Work Relationships
It’s nice to be friendly with your coworkers. But when there’s drama, stay out of it. Remember, first and foremost, you’re at work. Your office, or wherever you work, is not a social gathering. Some of your coworkers want to share too much, bring their personal lives into work with them or gossip around the water cooler. Stay far away from that kind of behavior and those kinds of work relationships. People in your industry who move up the ladder of success aren’t the ones passing rumors about the boss’s marriage or endlessly complaining about company policies.
Don’t add stress to your workdays by getting involved in office politics and dramatic relationships at work. Keep mum about your private life while you’re at work. It’s fine to share a little and have friendships at work. But it’s best to keep your business life and personal life separate.
6. Breathe in the Calm
If you have a desk at work, keep a bottle of lavender or bergamot essential oils in your drawer. When things get particularly hectic on the job, add two or three drops of the essential oil in your hand. Rub your hands together. Then, cup your hands around your face and breathe in deeply. Both lavender and bergamot oils will help relieve stress and promote a sense of calm. If your work conditions are often stressful, consider diffusing these oils in your office or cubicle. Check with your coworkers first to make sure they’re on board.
Sometimes, when we’re feeling overwhelmed and overworked, it’s because we’re trying to do everything ourselves. Are there tasks you might be able to delegate to an intern or assistant? If so, scrape them off your plate.
8. Break Up Big Projects Into Smaller Tasks
Do you have a huge project looming at work? That can be stressful and seem impossible to complete. Do yourself a favor and break up the giant monster mega job into smaller, more manageable tasks. For instance, if you need to replace all of your office’s 2018 laptops with newer units and assign new passcodes to each employee, begin by dividing all laptop issued employees into four groups. Start with group A. Assign new units, record passcodes and check off each employee. Move onto group B, then C and so on until the job is complete.
Breaking up your big projects into smaller tasks helps you stay motivated as you see each part completed. Bigger projects seem much less daunting when they’re broken down into more manageable jobs.
9. Cancel Negative Thoughts
Officevibe created a telling infographic about workplace stress. In it, they stated that 87 percent of workers worldwide reported that they are “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.”
That’s quite a problem. However, your thoughts dictate your emotional connection or disconnection to your work. When you find yourself talking negatively about your job or slipping into a negative mindset, edit yourself. Author Evelyn Lim says, “A great method that I have found useful is to say ‘cancel, cancel’ each time that I find myself saying something negative, whether in the mind or verbally.” Don’t let your mind or your words keep you in a negative mindset. Cancel the negativity. It will reduce your stress and emotional disconnection from your work.
10. Leave at Lunch
I’m a big fan of brown-bagging it for lunch. You’d never catch me out spending $12 on a big sandwich during my lunch break. Even so, it’s better to leave your office at lunchtime to get a real break from your environment. If you don’t have anywhere to go or you have a short lunch break, take a walk out to your car or do a few laps around the outside of the building.
Removing yourself physically ― for even a few minutes ― will give you a fresh perspective and a mental reset. It’ll help reduce your stress levels to get outside during your lunch break.
11. Enjoy a Hobby After Work
Often, we take the stresses of work home with us without realizing it. Instead of carrying your work burdens home and letting them fester in the back of your mind as you watch television, consider taking up a hobby.
Build and paint model cars, learn to crochet or start painting. Join an improv class or take sculpting lessons in the evenings. Learn to play the piano with free videos online. Hobbies will help you unwind, relax and better cope with your stressful workdays.
12. Know When It’s Time to Take a Leave of Absence
Timothy Webster and Bruce Bergman did extensive research on coping with stress at work. In one of their publications, they stated, “Although many employees experience stress as a normal part of their jobs, some experience stress so severe that they become ill and need time away from work to recuperate.”
There are times, particularly in high stakes, extremely stressful work environments, when it is necessary to take an extended leave from work or switch jobs entirely. If you start to develop physical symptoms like recurring headaches, high blood pressure or stomach ulcers because of your high-stress job, it’s time to take leave and get some professional help. Often, these symptoms can be resolved after a long break. When you return, start at the top of this list to better cope with the workplace stresses that await you.
Handle your workplace stress like a boss. There are numerous ways that work can add stress to your life and seem overwhelming. Even if you love your job, you can still feel overburdened and up to your eyeballs in stress. These coping skills can help you overcome a stressful work environment and even excel at your job.
Fermin, J. (2014). 11 scary statistics about stress at work. Retrieved from: https://www.officevibe.com/blog/infographic-stress-at-work#
Lim, E. (2008). 7 steps to positive self-talk. Retrieved from: https://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/7-steps-to-positive-self-talk/
The national institute for occupational safety and health. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/default.html
Webster, T. (1999). Occupational stress: counts and rates. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/cwc/occupational-stress-counts-and-rates.pdf