Stress is a natural part of life that everyone experiences, and in small doses can in fact be beneficial. Excessive stress, however, can have a range of negative physical, mental, and emotional impacts. Chronic job-related stress affects at least one-third of American workers, and by some estimates costs $300 billion per year in lost productivity.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source If the daily grind in the office (or other workplace) is causing you excessive stress, you have a range of options for identifying, avoiding, and dealing with your stressors.
Part 1 of 3:Identifying and Avoiding Work Stress
1Recognize the causes and symptoms. No matter your position or field, or how much you love or despise your work, all jobs cause at least some stress. How can you tell if you are experiencing an unusual or unhealthy amount of stress? If you know the common signs and symptoms to look for, you can begin the process of dealing with your stress.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to sourceTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
Common causes of workplace stress include: low salaries; excessive workloads; limited opportunities for growth or advancement; lack of challenging work; lack of support; lack of control; conflicting demands; unclear expectations; fear of job loss; increased overtime requirements; poor relations with a fellow worker or workers.
Symptoms of excessive workplace stress can include: feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed; apathy; loss of interest in work; problems sleeping; fatigue; trouble concentrating; muscle tension or headaches; stomach problems; social withdrawal; loss of sex drive; substance abuse; high blood pressure; obesity; heart disease.
2Track your stressors. You might think of yourself as too old or too busy to keep a “diary,” but using a stress journal for a week or two is an excellent way to identify your office stressors and how you respond to them. Take little notes throughout the day, recording events or individuals that caused you to experience stress symptoms, along with how you reacted.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source
Be thorough and honest; you're only cheating yourself if you aren't. Use the information gathered over a period of one or two weeks to get a clearer picture of your primary workplace stressors. With this information, you can begin to formulate specific strategies for neutralizing and counteracting your stressors.
3Don't worry about things that are out of your control. Your stress journal can be useful here — are rumors of downsizing or a problematic co-worker causing you stress? If such causes are out of your control according to your work status and responsibilities, remind yourself that they are not worth worrying about, as these things are beyond your control.
Focus your energies on your work (which you control), not on what other people think of it or you (which you can't control). You've heard it since childhood, but it is as true as ever — all you can do is give your best effort.
It may be as simple as asking “Is there anything I can do about this?” If the answer is no, why worry about it?
4Set realistic goals. Successful people usually expect a great deal of themselves and push themselves hard to achieve their goals. Challenging goals, and the stress that comes with working toward them, are good things. Unrealistic, unachievable goals that only cause excessive stress are not. Take time to honestly assess your career goals and determine if you are demanding the impossible of yourself.
Be realistic about how much you can do as well. Don't spread yourself too thin or overcommit to an excess of tasks. Learn to say “no” and prioritize your work; differentiate between what you “must” and “should” do.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source
5Create a less stressful work environment. In extreme cases, changing jobs may be the only way to reduce your stress. More often, though, you can achieve results by making small changes to the environment in which you currently work.
For instance, if your office or workspace is a pigsty, try cleaning it up and keeping it more orderly. Research shows that clutter and disorder increase stress levels (remember that “mess equals stress”).
Listen to your mother and sit up straight. Sitting and standing with good posture, and presenting yourself in a more powerful, assertive manner can actually reduce your stress levels as well. When you look confident, you tend to feel more confident, and in turn less concerned with trivial stressors.
Avoid the “worry-warts,” naysayers, and stress-junkies in your office whenever possible. Instead, associate with positive, supportive co-workers who have developed strategies to deal with their own stress. Let some of their positive energy rub off on you.
Part 2 of 3:Dealing with Unavoidable Stress
1Organize and prioritize your work. It is inherently stressful to walk into your office on a Monday and realize that you have 47 tasks to accomplish that day. Don't let the full weight of that workload rest on your shoulders all day. By breaking down the tasks that need to done, organizing them more efficiently, and tackling the most essential stuff first, you can make that burden seem much lighter.Trustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
When faced with one giant, stressful task, like a presentation or sales report, break it down into smaller, more manageable individual tasks. Nibble away at it piece by piece, taking time to appreciate each successful “bite,” instead of trying and failing to swallow the thing whole.
2Plan ahead for distractions. It can sometimes seem like, without fail, whenever you are just getting a handle on an important task, the phone rings or that annoying co-worker wanders in. Some distractions are unique and unexpected; others, however, are recurring and predictable. For the latter, anticipate the distraction and prepare your response ahead of time in order to minimize its stress-causing impact.
Whenever Bob or Janet stops by for his/her daily dose of distracting one-way conversation, be ready so you can pick up right where you left off. Politely ask for a second and jot down a quick note on what you were doing and were about to do, so you can get back up to speed quickly. Prepare your stock responses like “Yes, that is interesting” and “That could only happen to you, Bob/Janet.” Mention that you were in the middle of something and offer to pick up the conversation during a coffee break or at lunch. If all else fails, lock your door (if you have one).
3Take regular stress breaks. Sometimes, when experiencing a stressful work project or other situation, you may feel like “powering through” until the job is done is your best (or only) option. In reality, taking even brief breaks after every ninety minutes or so of intense work activity is likely to pay stress-reducing dividends. Meditate, take a walk, call a friend, knit a cap; do whatever healthy, non-stressful activity works for you.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source
Try to make your time at home an extended break from work stress as well. You may have no choice but to “bring your work home with you” to some degree, but you can also choose to set boundaries to limit the encroachment of work onto home and family life. Even if it reduces your productivity a bit, for most people it is a worthwhile trade-off.
On the subject of stress breaks, also make use of your vacation time. And when you go on vacation, make it a vacation, not a business trip. Disconnect as much as possible from your work responsibilities. Take the week to refresh and recharge.
4Talk and laugh with supportive people. If you are experiencing too much stress at work, there is a good chance that other people in the office are as well. Commiserating about your common woes can have a calming influence, and sharing stress-reduction strategies can pay dividends as well.
If laughter isn't always the best medicine for reducing stress, it is often an effective one. A timely joke or even just chuckling to yourself as the office seems to be crashing down around you can help calm and refocus you. However, don't laugh at the expense of other people — it hardly seems right to try to reduce your stress by increasing someone else's.Trustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
5Accept the fact of stress and find its positives. No one can eliminate all stress, and that is a good thing. Stress derives from the body's “fight or flight” response that served our distant (and even not so distant) ancestors well when danger was around every corner, and it can still serve you now in situations when you need an adrenaline boost and a heightened awareness. In appropriate doses, it sharpens your focus, clears your mind, and prepares your body to face a challenge.
If you can avoid unnecessary stress and reduce excessive stress, whatever remains need not be seen as your enemy. Instead of fearing or fighting it, use it to drive you to achieve in your work. Simply adopting the mindset that stress can be beneficial, and not simply debilitating, can improve work performance and reduce psychological symptoms of stress.
One way you can do this is to try reframing. When something stressful pops up or you feel that you're in a stressful situation — a last minute assignment at work, or thoughts about what the future might hold — pause and reframe by considering what might be positive about the situation. Tell yourself the last minute project is a challenge, a chance for you to put your skills to the test and push yourself. Remind yourself that the uncertainty of the future is actually pretty exciting — as far as you know, you could find yourself working or studying in another country in six months, or uncovering a passion you never knew you had, simply by chance.
Part 3 of 3:Using General Stress-Reduction Strategies
1Eat well, sleep more, and exercise regularly. A strong, healthy body can deal with the physical effects of stress more successfully. Unfortunately, when under stress, many people turn to unhealthy coping habits like overeating, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption. Instead, give your body what it needs to function more effectively, and it in turn will help you ward off the negative impacts of stress.Trustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
Beyond choosing healthy food options like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, try to eat smaller meals more frequently during the day. This can help keep your blood sugar levels steady, and prevent the spikes and crashes that can exacerbate stress levels.
Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night will help you combat stress. Of course, being stressed can make it hard to sleep. Look into simple strategies you can use to get a better night's sleep and consult your doctor if needed.
Aim for 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise — walking, biking, swimming, dancing, etc. — each day. Turn your thoughts away from your stressors and toward your present experience — your breathing, your movement, your surroundings — and you can revitalize your mind and body.
2Remember the “Five R's” of stress reduction. There are a million stress-reduction strategies out there, but most of the good ones boil down to some common concepts. For simplicity's sake, remembering the following five words (all starting with “R”) can serve as a good starting point:
Reorganize — Make lifestyle changes to avoid and relieve stress.
Rethink — Shift your focus away from your stressors.
Reduce — De-clutter your mind and your surroundings.
Relax — Use meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other relaxation techniques.
Release — Learn to let go of things that you can't control.
3Seek additional stress reduction resources. For general help with identifying and dealing with stress, you may want to begin by checking out the detailed article How to Relieve Stress. Additionally:
Find a good listener. When you are over-stressed, sometimes you just need to express your feelings or vent your frustrations to another person. Often, it is best if that person doesn't try to diagnose or solve your problems, but just offers a sympathetic ear. If you already have a person in your life like that, seek him or her out and be grateful.Trustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
Of course, you can also turn to professional counselors or therapists who have been trained to listen and help with stress issues. Talk to your supervisor or HR representative about possible workplace resources, or consult family and friends for references. Don't be ashamed or afraid; everyone, at some point, needs help dealing with stress. Make sure you do it in a healthy and effective manner.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source