Ways to Manage Stress at Work

Even when you love what you do, work can be stressful. Whether it’s a looming deadline, a demanding boss, a needy client or you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, I don’t know anyone who can say that don’t feel stress at work from time to time.

No matter how big or small your stress may be, you don’t have to let it eat at you or cause you to lie awake at night worrying. Finding ways to cope with stress when it comes is a far better way to stop it in its tracks and improve your productivity.

1. Take a Breath

Yes, just breath. Let’s say your boss just came up to your desk and told you he or she needs that project you thought was due tomorrow, right now! Rather than taking 20 minutes to fret and worry about how you’re going to get it done, stop and take a few deep breaths. Clear your mind and then start going one step at a time.

2. Add Breaks to Your Schedule

The day can get away from you quickly. You may have written your to-do list in the morning and by 10:00 AM it’s already off track. Time blocking is a great way to organize your day in general. It helps you keep on top of your to-do list, phone calls, and meetings. However, it’s also easy to schedule your whole day and not consider time for breaks. As your blocking out your day, make sure you are putting in break time. For example, add in 5 minutes late afternoon for a few stretches, or 15 minutes at lunchtime for a walk around the block. You don’t have to take out an hour to go to Yoga in the middle of the day, but try and squeeze in short breaks every few hours to do a calming activity.

3. Learn to Recognize When Stress is Self Induced

A colleague recently told me that he’s never seen anyone put so much pressure on themselves as I do. It made me realize that the source of a lot of stress I had been feeling was me. It’s important to recognize when your anxiety isn’t coming from an external factor, but instead, it’s coming from your mindset, expectations or how you think others are perceiving you. It’s important to acknowledge what the source of your internal stress is and try to shift your thought process. For example, if you’re like me and you are putting too much pressure on yourself, take a look at what you’ve accomplished, pat yourself on the back and realize that that extra pressure is only slowing you down.

4. Focus on Your Life Outside of Work

When we’ve had enough rest and are healthy and happy outside of work, dealing with the daily stresses of our jobs become a lot easier. In your time away from work, focus on you. Try to avoid the temptation of checking your email after hours and instead start a workout routine, take a class you’re interested in, pick up a book or spend time with your family. Healthy sleep habits are important too. Keep your phone out of the bedroom, keep away from screens at least an hour before bed and make sure your room is cool, quiet and comfortable for you. Coming into work rested will help you take on the day which that much more control.

5. Learn What’s Both In and Out of Your Control

When things are out of our control, we get stressed. But, it’s a fact of life that we can’t control everything around us. What we can do is focus on what we can control. I once had a boss that tended towards being very volatile. In turn, his lack of emotional control was causing me to become increasingly more stressed. I would take his behavior personally and put even more pressure on myself to do more and do it better. One day I realized, it wasn’t about me, and I couldn’t control how someone else behaved. All I could do was keep doing my job well and know that his volatility was coming from somewhere else.

The next time your stress is triggered, try one of the methods above to confront it rather than let it overwhelm you.

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