Everyone feels stress at work at some time. It often occurs when you are feeling overwhelmed or when you don’t have control over the situation but can also happen for other reasons. Stress at work can interfere with your ability to do your job, create friction between you and your coworkers or carry over to your time outside of work, causing problems in other relationships. You can’t always avoid stress but there are some ways you can help manage or reduce the stress you feel.
Identify Your Triggers
What triggers stress is individual to each person. Situations you find stressful may not bother your coworkers and vice versa. You might feel stressful when before handing in a report, anytime your boss gives you additional work, when you are faced with deadlines or when you need to talk in front of coworkers. You might feel more stress during certain times of the day, such as right before lunch or mid-afternoon. In order to effectively manage your stress, you need to find out what triggers these feelings. Keep a stress notebook at your desk for the next week. Write down what is going on each time you feel stress. Include the time, who was around, what happened just before and the current situation. By the end of the week, you should have some idea of what is triggering your stress.
Fix What You Can
You can’t fix every situation, but you might notice that you feel much more stressed shortly before lunch. Try taking a walk or having a healthy snack mid-morning to see if it reduces your stress. You might notice that you feel overwhelmed toward the end of the afternoon when you start thinking about all the work left to do by the end of the day. Try spending time in the morning or after lunch to plan your time and prioritize your workload. If there are uncomfortable situations or a hostile work environment, talk to your boss about your concerns. If you are nervous and anxious about presentations, consider taking a class on public speaking. Taking positive steps toward fixing problems makes you feel more in control.
Plan Stress Relief Times During the Day
Taking a walk during your lunch hour, spending time outside and meditating for 10 minutes can all help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. If you don’t have time or it isn’t possible to remove yourself for 10 minutes, take 3 minutes to do deep breathing exercises. While you might not think you have time to take a 10 minute break because of all the work you need to do, keep in mind that reducing your stress levels will make you more productive and energetic. Plan several stress breaks throughout the day.
Rewrite Your Reactions
Remember, your reactions to situations are based on your subjective perspective on a situation and usually don’t take other people into account. If you feel yourself becoming angry or anxious, take a few minutes to try to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective. You always have a choice on how to react to a situation and stress builds when you take situations as a personal affront. Instead, gather information on why a situation occurred and then act (rather than reacting) accordingly.
Use Deep Breathing
We mentioned this previously, using deep breathing during breaks, but this technique can be used anywhere. Anytime you feel your stress level rising, take several deep breaths, feeling your breath all the way down in your abdomen. You can use this technique at your desk, in meetings, while talking to your boss or the irritable coworker. Take a deep breath in through your nose, feel your abdomen fill and then let it out slowly through your mouth. Even three deep breaths can reduce your anxiety level.
Prioritize and Set Goals
Take a few moments in the morning, or the evening before you leave work, to write a list of what needs to be accomplished and prioritize the tasks. As you go through your day, check off the items you have completed and keep working through the list. At the end of the day, rewrite your list for the following day.
Focus on the Work Rather Than Opinions
You might worry about doing a good job because you don’t want others to think you are failure or lazy. Instead of spending your time worrying about what others think of you, focus on the work that needs to be done. Chances are if you focus on the work itself, you will do a better job.
Rewrite Your Self Talk
Listen to how you talk to yourself. Do you tell yourself you can’t do it? Do you criticize your work or your performance? Do you have a litany of negative things you tell yourself each day? Rewrite your thoughts to more positive and balanced ways of looking at situations. For example, instead of saying, "I will never get this done," acknowledge that it is a lot of work, remind yourself of times you have gotten this much work done before and tell yourself it is possible. While positive self-talk isn’t going to solve every problem, it can help keep you focused and on track.
Make Changes Outside of Work
Getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising do help. If you open your eyes in the morning worried about work, take ten minutes to meditate and put thoughts of work aside. Take time to enjoy your morning routine. Do something enjoyable in the evening. When you lead a healthy and balanced life outside of work, you are better able to handle stressful situations.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.