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According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress is a major source of anxiety and stress for adults. As much as 40 percent of workers surveyed by the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), considered their job “very or extremely stressful,” and 25 percent of respondents viewed their job as the top source of stress in their lives.
But there’s no need to let work-related stress, and especially stress that is perceived as “very or extremely stressful” take its toll on your productivity, and your physical and emotional health
Having someone to confide in, or at least share your frustrations with occasionally, can make it easier to stay focused throughout the day. Letting frustrations build up (even minor ones) will only add to your stress, and it might result in you taking it out on unsuspecting family members, friends, and maybe a few co-workers who may not be so understanding about it.
Instead of letting things build up and become more of an issue in your mind then what may be the case, take steps to initiate positive workplace relationships. Take time to make friends with some co-workers. This way you’ll have other people who are dealing with the same issues to talk to about things. Just remember that such relationships work both ways, so be willing to be supportive in return.
Whenever possible, plan activities with friends and family. This way you’ll have yourself something else to look forward to beyond meeting deadlines and completing reports. If your work schedule keeps you fairly busy, get creative with your planning. Maybe you could ask some friends to meet you after work, so you don’t have to worry about rushing home to go back out. It’s an easy way to de-stress after a long day, plus you’ll be less likely to take your frustrations out on undeserving family members. Don’t get in the habit of not using your vacation time. You’ll be more productive and less stressed if you schedule time off away from work.
Exercise is an excellent stress reliever, partly because it triggers the release of endorphins and other beneficial hormones. Aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, gardening, dancing, and swimming not only get your heart rate up, but such exercises also release “feel good” chemicals called endorphins that can naturally minimize stress. Even just 15 to 20 minutes of exercise a day can be beneficial.
If you have to, break up your fitness schedule to include roughly 10 to 15 minutes of stretches or other easy exercises in the morning and another 10 to 15 minutes of exercise at the end of the day. When stress builds up at work, take a quick walk around the building or go outside and walk around the block. Short activity breaks like this can sometimes be enough to get your stress level down due to the release of endorphins.
Start your day off with a healthy breakfast that gives your body a boost of energy after a night of fasting. Go for a breakfast meal that’s full of healthy fats, protein and fiber to help balance your cortisol levels. Eat healthy snacks between meals (around 9-10am and 2-3pm) to keep blood sugar levels stable. Also , don’t skip lunch just to get more work done. Low blood sugar can increase anxiousness and quickly deplete your energy, which means it could take you longer to complete your daily tasks, further adding to your stress.
Make sure to limit, or even better, avoid your trips to the break room for coffee, as caffeine can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it difficult for your adrenal glands to recover. Have a cup of herbal tea instead. If you know you’re a stress eater, make an effort to go with healthy snacks when you feel the need to munch to relieve stress.
Nicotine is a powerful stimulant that, contrary to popular belief, does not relieve stress. According to a study published in the American Physiologist, the stress levels of adult smokers are slightly higher than those of nonsmokers. The same goes with excessive alcohol consumption. While there’s nothing wrong with an occasional drink with co-workers after work to de-stress, becoming dependent on alcohol just to ease stress may result in a whole new set of problems, including issues with addiction.
You’re not likely to be expected to do everything yourself at work. Even if this is the case (or feels like it on some days), there’s no shame in letting your boss know you could use some help with a particularly demanding project. You’re also not going to get anything other than added stress by turning down offers of assistance from co-workers. Repeatedly turning down offers of help could also make them less-inclined to lend a hand when you’re overwhelmed.
You can further ease your workplace stress by determining what specific duties tend to cause the most stress for you. You can even discuss with your line manager or someone from HR whether you can have a flexible working arrangement, or seek clarification of your exact roles and responsibilities. Why not ask for training or support due to your overload of work?
Workplace stress can sometimes affect how you sleep and contribute to restlessness and an inability to sleep soundly through the night. At the same time, purposely sacrificing sleep can make the problem even worse. Improve sleep quality by sticking to a steady sleep schedule. Avoid stressful situations before bed as much as possible, skip late-night meals (a little snack is OK), and don’t do any strenuous exercise right before bedtime. Leave all potential distractions out of reach, including your cell phone, laptop and any other electronic device you may be tempted to grab “just for a sec” before getting to bed. It’s easier to handle regular work-related stress when you’re well-rested.
You can’t do a handful of tedious tasks at the same time, no matter how good you are at multitasking. Start each workday by determining what needs to get done first and what can wait. Use Post-It notes or create a spreadsheet that you can change each day as you cross tasks off your to-do list. By having a specific order for your duties, you’ll reduce the stress that comes with feeling overwhelmed when things start piling up.
If you have something to do that’s especially unpleasant or demanding, get it over with right away so you won’t be dreading it as you keep putting it off. For larger projects that seem particularly cumbersome, break down the steps required into smaller tasks, so you feel some sense of accomplishment and progress.
Instead of beating yourself up over not being able to finish a particularly challenging task before the end of your workday, flip your way of thinking around. Look at uncompleted projects as almost done rather than not yet done. On days when your boss points out why he feels that report you worked on for days could have been better, consider criticism that’s valid to be constructive. Avoid over-analyzing situations or dwelling on one thing you got wrong out of the many other tasks you completed successfully. Have enough humility to learn from your mistakes. You may have some co-workers you simply can’t get along with no matter how much effort you make. Accept that you probably can’t change the situation and don’t stress about it.
According to some estimates, about 20 percent of adults can link their stress to not having a comfortable balance between their work life and home life. Learn when to say “no” to voluntary overtime when there’s not an important project that needs to get done and don’t let vacation days go unused. Simply having a few days off to relax around the house or work in the yard can be enough to calm your nerves and restore your balance. Unless it’s necessary, don’t make yourself constantly available to immediately respond to work-related emails and texts when you’re off the clock. The more you can separate your work world from the other aspects of your life outside of your occupation, the better off you will be mentally and physically.
Some degree of workplace stress within your comfort zone (level of acceptable stress) is normal and can inspire you to be productive and effective in your job. But when you reach a point where stress isn’t going away, or if it’s contributing to persistent aches and pains or causing constant anxiety in your life, it might be time to look for another job. But before you do so, it’s best to seek legal advice, as your employer could be receptive to a mutual termination of your employment on suitable financial terms and an agreed job reference.
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