How to manage stress at work
Each one of us experiences some degree of stress on a daily basis. The pace of modern life keeps moving faster and the world in which we live is becoming more complicated.
Professional stress is an ever-growing phenomenon in today’s society that seems to be here to stay, but there are ways to prevent it from overwhelming you.
1. Pinpoint your source of stress
The first step to effectively managing workplace stress is to identify the symptoms and sources of underlying tension that affect you. Dealing with the root cause of your stress can prevent it from rearing its ugly head again.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you need more support and additional training to fulfill your duties?
- Are you finding it difficult to manage your workload and stay organized?
- Are you anxious about upcoming changes and feeling left in the dark about details?
- Are you having an ongoing conflict with a colleague that has reached the point where you dread every meeting with them?
Determine the source(s) of your stress, possible solutions, tools or resource people and then get started! Your manager can certainly help you take action.
2. Take time to plan
Set your priorities among all the tasks on your to-do list.
The Eisenhower Matrix can help. Its four principles are:
- Important and urgent tasks should be performed the same day
- Important but not urgent tasks should be scheduled
- Not important but urgent tasks should be rescheduled or delegated
- Not important and not urgent tasks should be avoided.
Nothing gets prioritized if everything is handled urgently. Using the Eisenhower Matrix allows you to prioritize tasks and be more productive.
To dispel that niggling doubt that you’ll never get it all done, you need to focus on the big picture regarding what you have to accomplish and organize. You need to be especially prepared to handle unexpected issues that crop up along the way.
Don’t look at this exercise as a waste of valuable time you could be spending on work, but rather like an investment that allows you to be more efficient.
Also avoid falling into the trap of putting off unpleasant tasks until tomorrow if they need to be done today. Procrastination provokes stress. Take the bull by the horns and get ‘er done, whether you like the task or not.
3. One thing at a time
A person will try to do everything at once when they feel overwhelmed.
This technique rarely works and can actually increase your stress level. A person can be pulled in many directions and feel they are doing everything and nothing at the same time.
Focus on one task at a time and move on to the next only after the first one is finished. Completing tasks one at a time drains less time and energy than if you stop and start a task or switch between tasks. It takes on average between three to five minutes to dive back into a task after an interruption.
This advice may seem trivial, but focusing requires a lot of discipline.
This means you have to manage a constant stream of interruptions, such as emails, phone calls, messages, etc. Have you ever thought about scheduling time in your calendar to deal with them, instead of putting work on hold every time you’re interrupted?
4. Healthy lifestyle habits
Start by embracing healthy lifestyle habits. Be active, get moving, eat a balanced diet (healthy food choices, regular snacks and meals), practice good sleep hygiene, discover new hobbies and, above all, have some fun!
It’s a well-known fact that exercising is a great way of decompressing and staying healthy and happy.
5. Just let it go!
Stress is often perceived as a loss of control that leads to a downward spiral of mental of worrying and agonizing.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to control what is beyond our control.
However, you can take steps to change how you perceive stressful situations at work. This is where you’ll feel like you’re regaining control.
You should practice the art of living in the moment rather than anticipating future disasters. By concentrating on the now, you will be more efficient, calm and productive at work.
6. Be zen
Some stress management techniques are able to stop stress in its tracks. Even better, they trigger a relaxation response and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, recognized to slow down all body functions.
Some of these techniques include:
7. No means no
Does the word “no” seem incompatible with your job?
Approach it with the attitude of respecting your limits. This will prevent you from taking on responsibilities that are not yours or accepting tasks when you are already snowed under with work.
Expectations of you will be clarified, as a “no” is far less frustrating than an unfulfilled “yes.”
8. The power nap
Take a nap between 1-3 p.m. if your workplace allows it.
It does not have to last long; a 10 to 20-minute nap is all it takes to recharge without affecting your nighttime sleep.
And if that doesn’t work?
Chronic stress that stretches over a long period of time is harmful to your health and could lead to the following ailments:
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
Do not hesitate to get in touch with a healthcare professional if you think your mental or physical health is suffering as a result of stress.
Take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at your workplace, where applicable.