Computers, smartphones, and modern apps have made us smarter and more productive at the workplace. But rather than having a more balanced home-work life, we find ourselves spending more and more of our personal time working. The threat of downsizing, budget cuts, layoffs, and outsourcing means that we have too much to do, too little time to do it in, and not enough people or resources to get things done on time. The increased work load leads to nothing but stress at work and burnout.
Stress at work manifests in the form of health problems, absenteeism, low morale and lower productivity. Negative emotions among the workforce can quickly become contagious and have an impact on the team and company’s performance. Therefore it is important that you learn how to deal with stress before it snowballs into a bigger problem.
How to Deal with Stress at Work
Following the strategies outlined below regularly will help you effectively manage stress at work.
1. Watch Out For The Early Signs
Ignoring the early signs of stress can lead to bigger problems. Watch out for symptoms of stress such as anxiety and irritability, losing interest in work, trouble concentrating, frequent headaches, taking to drugs or alcohol to cope with work pressure or struggling with insomnia. When you are aware of these symptoms its time to nip them in the bud.
2. Talk it Out
One of the best ways to beat stress at work is to talk to someone about the situation that’s troubling you. You don’t necessarily need to find a solution, but simply discussing the issue with your close family or friends can help you blow off steam. If you remain closed and withdrawn from everyone, you are only going to make things worse. So make it a point to talk it out with an eager listener.
3. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is a powerful stress buster. Walking briskly, swimming, doing aerobics or playing outdoors increases the heart rate and makes you sweat consequently boosting your energy and lifting your mood. Similarly, doing yoga, mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises can have a relaxing effect on the mind and body. Try to put in at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday. You’ll find yourself more focused and ready for your work challenges.
Stretching is actually a huge stress reliever, but no one remembers to practice it. When you are stressed, your muscles tend to tighten. If you spend a lot of time sitting or standing, your muscles get stiff and you end up with aches and pains. Stretching allows you to get rid of the tightness in the muscles and leaves you feeling relaxed. Plus it can be done anywhere and takes very little time.
5. Eat Healthy
Healthy eating can get you through difficult days. However, when you are stressed, the natural tendency is to take in more caffeine, binge eat, skip meals, puff on cigarettes, drink alcohol and sometimes even abuse drugs. Resist the temptation to give in to these bad, unhealthy habits. Eat small frequent meals. It will help you maintain your blood sugar level, fight off lethargy, and avoid mood swings. If you must have a drink or smoke, do it in moderation. And one more thing, don’t eat your lunch at the work desk.
6. Sleep Well
Remember, a well rested mind can think and work better. Stress leads to insomnia, leaving you feeling tired and irritable in the morning. This sluggishness will only make you more unproductive at the workplace. If you are routinely feeling tired or distracted at work and are not able to finish your tasks on time, get some sleep. Make it a point to sleep for at least 8 hours a night and make your sleep schedule regular.
7. Avoid Conflicts at the Workplace
Having a conflicting relationship with your team mates can take a toll on your emotional health and add to the stress at work. Don’t gossip, avoid expressing strong opinions on sensitive personal topics such as religion, politics, and gender and steer clear of cheap and colorful jokes. If possible, avoid working with people who don’t get along with others. If someone is in a foul mood and rants at you, don’t give out a heated response in exchange. Take deep breaths, calm yourself and respond after careful thought.
8. Maintain a Journal
If your work is frequently stressing you out, maintain a journal to record your feelings and reactions to people and events in the workplace. After a few weeks, you will be able to identify patterns that caused the stress and be able to deal with them appropriately.
9. Prioritize Your Tasks
How to deal with stress when your tasks seem overwhelming? Simple. Prioritize. Check to see if you have a balanced work schedule. If not, try delegating the job, or automating it. Analyze your daily tasks and prepare a schedule so you don’t waste your most productive hours on not-so-important activities. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Plan regular breaks or use Pomodoro tools to chunk your task into smaller activities while still taking breaks in between to avoid burnout. Finally, learn to say NO when you have to and be willing to compromise when required.
10. Don’t be a Control Freak
You cannot control everything in life and no matter how much you aim for perfection, you won’t always be able to achieve it in pressure situations. Learn to accept that sometimes getting the job done is more than enough. Aiming for too much might end up putting unwanted pressure on yourself and your team and if you fall short its going to bring everybody down. Instead focus on just getting things done and you’ll find yourself in a more happy and workable environment. If you find things getting hot under the collar, instill some humor, crack a joke and make everyone laugh out loud.
Hope you found these tips useful in dealing with stress at work. You can also make use of the advisory booklet issued by ACAS for more help and advice on dealing with stress in the workplace.