Managing Stress at Work

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • We can't rid our lives of stress. It is bound to happen and some stress is normal. Sometimes added pressures allow us to "rise to the occasion" and meet challenges, deadlines and goals. But sometimes, stress is overwhelming and not only interferes with our ability to do our job but can cause physical and emotional problems. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, some sources of stress in the workplace are:

    • Mandatory overtime due to staff cutbacks
    • Feeling a constant pressure to perform at high levels, especially if there is no increased job satisfaction
    • Job redundancy
    • Poor relationships at work
    • Lack of confidence in your ability to do the job

    In today's uncertain economy, the stress in the workplace is higher because you may feel "stuck." You may worry about not being able to find another job or may worry about whether you will be laid-off, leaving you and your family without income.

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    Although you may not be able to control many of the situations at your job, there are ways to help you manage stress in the workplace.  


    Create a personal space. If you have a desk, a cubicle or even a locker, you can bring a few items to help make your "space" more comfortable and pleasant. Plants, vases with fresh flowers or small trinkets can help you personalize your area. Photographs of your loved ones also help. When you are feeling frustrated, looking at the photos helps you remember why you are working and that someone cares about you.


    Take advantage of breaks. Do you eat your lunch at your desk? Work through your breaks? Getting away from your desk for a few minutes can help keep you refreshed and focused. You may want to take a quick walk outside or enjoy your lunch sitting on a bench. The fresh air and sunshine can help rejuvenate you for the rest of your day. Or use your break to do things you find relaxing, such as, knitting, reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, playing cards. Spending even  minutes on a relaxing activity can help reduce your stress level.


    Plan a pleasant activity for after work. This can be having dinner with your family, going to the movies, making an appointment for a massage or meeting friends. It helps to have something to look forward to when your work shift is over. As things begin to feel stressful, think about your plans for later, it can help you make it through the rest of the day.


    Exercise. Exercise helps to reduce stress and depression and helps to increase focus and memory. Use your lunch hour to take a brisk walk, get up early and head to the gym for a quick work-out or stop on your way home to play a game of tennis with a friend. No matter what you do, adding vigorous exercise to your daily routine can help you better manage stress.


    Make a to-do list. Being overwhelmed with many different tasks can be a great cause of stress. Take ten minutes each morning to write yourself a to-do list, with the most important tasks listed at top. Having a plan for your day helps to lessen your feelings of overwhelm.


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    Set realistic goals. Goals can help you feel focused or can be overwhelming, depending on whether your goals are realistic and attainable. Setting unrealistic goals will add to your stress, setting realistic goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and allow you to measure your progress.


    Break large projects into small chunks. There is nothing so overwhelming as being confronted with a huge project and not knowing where to start or what to do. Instead of procrastinating as a way to avoid the project, list all of the steps needed and look at each step as an individual project.


    Use relaxation techniques. Taking deep breaths, meditating for 5 minutes or doing simple exercises at your desk take very little effort but can help you face the stress of your day. List a few ways you can relax in 10 minutes or less and keep the list in your desk drawer. When feeling stressed and overwhelmed, choose one strategy and take ten minutes to relax.


    Eat right. In the rush of the workday it can be tempting to skip breakfast or lunch but not eating adds to your feelings of stress and exhaustion. Make sure you eat a balanced diet each day.


    Talk to your boss. If stress is interfering with your ability to do your job, it is time to talk to your boss. Let him or her know what is going on and why you are feeling pressure right now. Your boss has probably gone through stressful times at work and may be able to offer some additional suggestions or help you find ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed.


    For more information:


    Coping with Your Own & Other People's Anxiety at Work


    Anxiety and the Workplace


    Dealing with Social Anxiety at Work


    How to Talk to Your Employer About Your Anxiety




    "Sources of Workplace Stress," Date Unknown, Canadian Mental Health Association


Published On: March 15, 2011