Work-related stress affects everyone, even those who are passionate about what they do. Some people are able to cope with everyday stress, some aren’t. The truth is that stress is always going to be present regardless of the nature of work.
Studies show that in the United States, job-related stress remains the primary source of stress in adults. This is particularly concerning because stress can lead to heart disease and other serious health conditions.
You may not be able to completely avoid work-related stress, but there are several ways you can cope.
Identify and track your stressors
Knowing what your stressors are is an important step to reduce and/or eliminate stress. Your stressors can be difficult coworkers, seemingly insurmountable tasks (e.g., meeting weekly sales targets, managing an underperforming team, etc.), or everyday situations (e.g., a noisy office). Take note of the causes of your stress, study the patterns in which they occur, and determine whether it’s within your control to minimize or eliminate them.
If a particular coworker is giving you a hard time accomplishing your tasks, it may be time to speak to your superior about it. If working the midnight shift is causing you both physical and mental stress, consider asking for a shift change. Identifying your stressors can empower you to manage and reduce your stress levels and improve your well-being in the long run.
More often than not, stressors at the workplace aren’t only caused by events that happen in the present. You may also be stressed by past shortcomings or by future events like deadlines, the anticipation of a promotion, or the expectation of getting a raise. These can affect your well-being and performance at work, and make life more stressful than it needs to be.
This stems from today's need for everyone to do — and be — several things at once, which inevitably leads to increased stress levels. Living in the moment or achieving a state of mindfulness seems like sound advice, but does it actually help in any noticeable or concrete way? It certainly does. In fact, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, mindfulness meditation helps reduce psychological stress like anxiety, depression, and pain.
It’s necessary to take breaks, which should include short work breaks and long vacations. Not doing so negatively affects your productivity and may result in chronic stress.
To function normally and optimally, one needs to recharge and disconnect from work at healthy intervals. Make it a habit to take lunch breaks, stand up from your desk from time to time during work hours, limit the number of days (or hours) you do overtime work, and take several days off for vacation.
Taking a healthy amount of breaks is a great way to recharge and be reinvigorated. This helps you avoid cycles of showing up at the workplace constantly feeling tired and stressed, and resorting to unhealthy habits in order to cope.
There are certain high-stress jobs for which setting boundaries in terms of working longer-than-usual hours or not taking breaks during particularly busy periods may be challenging. Not establishing boundaries, however, could have dire consequences on your physical and mental health.
Turn off work-related notifications on your smartphone while at home. Avoid checking your work email while having dinner. Talk to your supervisor about working long hours, doing overtime work, and performing extra tasks that may be contributing to your stress. Take simple, doable steps, and turn them into habits.
Work stressors may be difficult to eliminate, but it’s essential to make an effort to reduce them. If your attempts to reduce stress don’t seem to be working, consider getting help from the mental health professionals at Meridian Psychiatric Partners LLC. We’ll be offering a 6-week mindfulness yoga and meditation course starting April 16 — contact Lori Allen at (312)-533-4041.