No matter how much we love our jobs, the daily grind can sometimes leave us feeling under pressure. But it’s important to know the difference between a bad day in the office and the early warning signs of stress. While we might not be able to control all the things that can cause us to feel overwhelmed, we can change how we react to and approach them.
Learning how to deal with stress at work can be a positive step towards maintaining your own health and wellbeing. Here’s our guide to 21 things that you can do to fight work related stress.
What is Work Related Stress?
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain that develops in response to overwhelming and/or excessive pressure. It can sneak up on us when we least expect it and affect different areas of our lives – including our day to day work.
Indeed, work-related stress is one of the most common forms of stress that we can encounter. Long working hours, looming deadlines and seemingly unending tasks can often leave us feeling anxious, overworked and on edge, which can have a negative effect on our performance and productivity. If left unchecked, stress can have a serious impact on our health and wellbeing, and can have an effect on other parts of our lives, such as our relationships and home life.
It sounds like a lot, and indeed it can be. But learning about how to deal with stress at work doesn’t have to be, well – stressful. There are simple steps that you can take to help reduce stress and help avoid it in the future.
1) Talk It Out
Sometimes the best way to deal with stress at work is to share your worries and concerns with those around you. Talking about the things that bother you is a healthy way to deal with stress and can often help you figure out how to approach the problems that cause it.
Talk to Your Manager. Talking to your Supervisor or Line Manager can often feel like a daunting task, but making them aware of how you feel can often be the easiest way to reduce or even eliminate the issues that cause you to feel stressed. They may be unaware of how you feel, and are in a position to make changes in the workplace that could help significantly reduce stress.
Interact With Your Peers and Co-Workers. Sometimes stress can leave us feeling isolated, but it’s important to remember that we are surrounded by people who can offer help, support and advice. Building a strong social network at work can give you the opportunity to talk about your concerns and may even provide you with positive solutions.
Make Time for Family and Friends. Talking with people who are not connected to your workplace can be a great way to relieve stress, and they can often offer a new perspective on things. However, it’s also important to know when to switch off and spend time with the people that mean a lot to you.
2) Take Some Time For Yourself
It’s easy to get stuck tending to a seemingly never-ending list of responsibilities in our on and off hours. Taking some time away from work- even for just a few seconds – can help you come back to your work feeling focused and ready to tackle the task at hand.
Make Time for Break Time. Missing out on break time to continue working often means we deny our brain a much-needed break away from tasks that require a lot of time and focus. Try to make sure you take a break, even if it’s a small one. Go and make a cup of tea, grab a bathroom break or have a quick chat with a colleague – every little helps.
Make a Change of Scenery. Getting up and moving around can often help give our brains a moment to re-calibrate. Give yourself a small goal; go to the kitchen and make yourself a drink or plan a short walk during lunchtime. A change of scenery can often bring about a change of perspective, which can help you find a new way to approach your workload.
Take a Look Around. Looking away from your work, even for a few moments can give your brain a chance to relax and come back a little more focused. Try to focus on something else for about 20 seconds before looking back at your work, and you might find a new solution.
Take Time Off. To quote a great philosopher “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. Work may play an important role in our lives, but it is equally important to take time away from it. Booking time off in advance helps relieve work related stress by giving you something to look forward to in the future.
3) Change Your Habits
Good habits that worked for us in the past may become less effective over time, and it can become easy to get stuck in a rut without realising it. On the other hand, bad habits can develop in response to stress at work, which can impact the quality of your work. It’s always important to evaluate your routine and see what’s working – and what isn’t.
Acknowledge Your Bad Habits. We all have them, and they can be pretty hard to break, but recognising your bad habits can be the first step to overcome them. Leaving for work late, for example, could end up with you stuck in traffic. Not only will this increase stress levels, but it starts before you even get into the office, making for a poor start to the workday. Identifying your bad habits and taking steps to overcome them can be a good way to avoid unnecessary stress in the workplace.
Watch Out for Procrastination. Taking a break is a good, and even healthy way, to deal with stress at work. There is, however, a fine line between taking a break from work and outright ignoring it. Avoiding tasks might feel like a stress reliever, but it’s only a short term fix. In reality, procrastinating just reduces the amount of time you have to complete them, which can lead to even more stress down the line. Remember that even the most diligent worker can be prone to bouts of procrastination, so be aware of habits that might lead to work becoming neglected.
If You’re Stuck, Ask for Help. It’s inevitable that at some point we hit a wall with our work. Maybe a project isn’t coming together as well as it should, or vague instructions make a task impossible to complete. This can leave us feeling inadequate and isolated, or too proud to admit that we need assistance. It’s important to remember that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – in fact, asking for help can even be an enriching experience. It could lead to exciting collaborations or new training opportunities that can help you gain experience.
Know Your Responsibilities. It’s easy to fall into tasks that may not necessarily be in your job description. Talk to others who have the same role as you or request a meeting with your manager to outline what your duties are. You may be spreading yourself too thin trying to complete projects that aren’t yours to focus on.
4) Get Organised.
Sometimes, issues that we encounter at work are often the result of poor or ineffective organisation. Creating an effective day to day routine can bring structure to your workday, which can help you avoid stressful situations.
Assess your Workload. Prioritise your tasks so that you can tackle big projects first. Not only will this knock a large task off your to-do-list, but finishing a high-profile project can produce a sense of accomplishment that carries over to your other tasks. Regularly assess your workload and tailor it to fit your workday.
Create a Schedule That Works for You. Start your week off by mapping out what you need to do and what your timeframe is for each task. Not only will this allow you to plan your work week effectively, but it can also let you schedule in much-needed break time.
Find a Good Work Life Balance. This is easier said than done, but striking a good work life balance can go a long way to help reduce work stress. While you’re at work, focus on the tasks at hand and try not to get distracted. At home, make sure you know when to switch off at the end of the day – stay away from your work emails, switch off your phone alerts and focus on the things that matter most to you.
5) Put Things in Perspective.
In many cases the simplest way is often the most effective. Changing the way you think about your work can help you gain a new perspective and be the first step to solving potential underlying issues.
Focus on What You Can Control. Often when we encounter a problem, we tend to worry about things related to it. Producing a piece of work, for example can bring with it a mountain of additional worries and concerns – Who will read it? What will they think? What if they dislike it? It’s important to remember that we can’t influence things beyond our control – but we can influence things that are. Try to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.
Take a Breath. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how little we actually take the time to just stop and have a breather. Taking a few calming breaths can help clear your head and give you a moment to refocus on the task at hand.
Set Realistic Goals. While it may be good to have something to strive towards, trying to live up to unrealistic expectations that we set for ourselves is one of the most common causes of work-related stress. While you may want to proofread a 600-page document by the end of the day, it’s important to ask yourself if you can without making significant sacrifices to your wellbeing and other duties. Setting realistic daily, weekly or even monthly goals for yourself can be an effective way to be productive, reduce stress and measure personal development.
6) Look After Your Health and Wellbeing
Your overall health and wellbeing can affect how you feel throughout the day, both inside and outside of work. Making small changes to your diet and routine can be a simple and effective way to help you deal with stress at work.
Eat Well. What we eat can have a significant impact on the way we feel. Unhealthy food may give you a boost in the short term due to their high sugar content, but eating healthily gives our bodies everything they need to maintain good energy and focus throughout the workday.
Exercise Regularly. Exercise helps the body to produce feel-good endorphins that can help bring down stress levels, sharpen the mind and lift your mood. You don’t need to become a workout fanatic, just find something that works for you – join a running club, take up a sport or commit to walking 30 minutes during your lunch break. Even something small can make a huge difference.
Get Enough Sleep. Things that stress us out can seem 10 times worse when we don’t have the energy to face them. Getting enough sleep can be an effective way to reduce stress at work and help provide the energy you need to tackle your workload.
Treat Yourself. While exercising, eating healthily and following a good routine can have a positive impact on your working life, letting loose every once in a while can sometimes be exactly what you need. Go out for a meal, buy something you’ve wanted for a while, or travel somewhere new – you’d be surprised what a little change can do.
Stress isn’t completely avoidable, and in some cases it can even be useful. It may sound a little counter-intuitive, but some stress can actually be good for us – at least in small doses. It can push us to implement positive changes, help us progress in areas where we need it most, and push us to plan for the future. However, if stress starts to have an impact on your performance at work and your health and wellbeing, its time to take action and make some positive changes.
Looking for effective stress awareness training? Try the EssentialSkillz Stress Awareness course for free.
Disclaimer: This article is purely for informational purposes. For more information on mental health in the workplace, visit the Health and Safety Executive.