According to this study, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work- related stress or anxiety between 2016 and 2017 alone. The top three stressors for Americans today are the uncertainty of the nation’s future, money and work with work stress accounting for billions in healthcare costs.
Stress at work happens to almost every one of us, even if you genuinely love what you do for a living. And when left unchecked, these negative emotions can become overwhelming for your physical and emotional health. Is there a way to maintain steady focus throughout one’s work day? Are there easy ways we can deal with workplace stress before it consumes us?
Fortunately, we have positive answers to these queries having collated the easy guide below to help you manage stress at work better, crucial to living a more mindful and sustainable life:
1. Focus on what you can actually do.
Most times, we experience stress at work arising from situations literally beyond our control. So the first thing you need to do here is identify which situations create the most stress at work for you. This step is important because, it’s vital that you recognize what you can actually control from what you can’t, no matter how hard you try.
Business psychologist and author of ‘Success Under Stress’ Sharon Melnick, advises that you continually identify the aspects of any work situation you can control and do your best accordingly. Typically, you are in control of at least 50% of whatever situation you face at work. This percentage mainly comprises of your own actions and responses exempting the macro forces at work and trivialities such as your colleague’s opinion of you for example. Be as impeccable as possible with the 50% you control and try to let go of the rest.
The irony here is that once you shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can, you’re actually more likely to impress your colleagues with your efficiency without even knowing it.
2. Change your mindset.
According to Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of Mindful Living Network and The Stress Institute, one of the biggest misconceptions about stress is that we have to beat it. The funny thing here however is that as we make stress the enemy, we waste a lot more of our energies trying to do mental battle with this villain thereby creating even more stress for ourselves.
Stress at work pretty much arises from unregulated emotions so some times; all you have to do is change your perspective on these stressors a bit. You don’t always have to react to situations at work, sometimes all you need to do is act positively—from a mental and emotional standpoint—to those negative stressors. Intentionally activating positive heart emotions such as care, appreciation, compassion and ease, decreases your stress by creating physiological harmony.
3. Get rid of unnecessary interruptions.
Most of us are bombarded with work all day long. This is somewhat to be expected I guess but as if that isn’t enough, emails, phone calls and ever-shifting deadlines can further make things worse. So to cope with the resulting stress, you need to keep track of the interruptions to your day. You need to differentiate the necessary interruptions from the unnecessary ones so that you can plot out your reaction to the latter.
Melnick suggests here that you can choose to accept the interruptions when they come, cut them off or determine just how important they are before you make any call. This will help you compartmentalize faster and free up your time for more pressing needs.
4. Work in smaller time blocks.
In their book, Immunity to Change, Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey discuss how the increase in complexity of modern life has left many of us feeling “in over our heads.” The result is that we attack our work days using a “push, push, push” approach. This approach is however a major reason your stress levels increase at work.
Research has found that working in small time blocks can help you stay organized when you have a lot to do, and can reduce stress by helping you visualize what you need to prioritize. The next time you feel overwhelmed at work, take out a fresh piece of paper, draw a column of boxes, place each of your tasks in a box, based on priority level and assigned a few minutes to each. Schedule small stretches or walks in the short intervals in between tasks. If you have intense concentration for 15 to 30 minutes, followed by a brief period of recovery, you can blow off steam easily, lift your mood, and rejuvenate yourself faster.
5. Unplug from time to time.
One of the best ways to relieve stress at work is to do something that is completely unrelated to your job a few minutes each day. Put differently, you need to cultivate the habit of having “me time” at work to help decompress from the pressures of work on a daily basis.
Hall, considered a pioneer in mindful living, suggests taking five minutes a day to find something that will bring you serenity, and Mark Maule, a health and wellness expert, opines that it doesn’t matter if this practice has to wait until you are physically away from work. Whether you choose to lose yourself in a good read, or to grab lunch with a good friend while at work, the crucial thing is that you show up for yourself by unplugging for a little while.
Related Post: I Tried to Take a Digital Cleanse – But Failed to Unplug
Finally, stressors at work are generally perceived through the filter of our own self-doubts. So occasionally, try to view it all objectively. You might find that tough work situations aren’t about you at all; and this might make you less likely to take things personally.
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Feature image by Johnson Wang/Unsplash.