I think it’s fair to say that everybody has been on edge over the last few months. The world is changing right before our eyes and nobody has any idea what the future is going to hold.
I am somebody who doesn’t deal all that well with stress. There are some things that I have a hard time letting go of, and I find this exceptionally true with anything work-related. I guess a better way to put it is that I know I am a great employee, but there is always this cloud of fear hovering over me that I might get laid-off at any given moment.
Now, I know that’s a longshot, but it also makes it so that I do everything in my power to ensure I am the best employee possible. Admittingly, sometimes that means carrying the stress of work even after I have left.
The good news is that I am not alone.
In a recent study, researchers from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey. They looked at self-reports of sleep duration among 150,000 adults working in different occupations from 2010 to 2018. Researchers found the prevalence of inadequate sleep, defined as seven hours or less, increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018.
A Pew Research Center study found that over 50% of employed people check their work email on the weekends and 34% of them check email on vacation.
Well, America, have you ever heard the expression “live to work and work to live?” Congratulations! We are taking this to a whole new level!
Working Ourselves To Death
There is a fine balance between doing something you’re passionate about, and taking on additional projects on the weekend simply because your boss told you to.
When you work towards something you are passionate about, the stress levels are going to be less. But when you allow work to consume your life, you are literally working yourself to death.
According to the Center for Disease Control/National Institute on Occupational Safety & Health, the workplace is the number one cause of life stress. The American Institute of Stress reports 120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress. Additionally, healthcare costs resulting from work-related stress totals an average of $190 billion a year.
It’s scary to think about when you look at the numbers.
How To Overcome Being Overworked
You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, there is no way my boss will allow me to take off work.” or “I am going to fall far behind if I take any PTO.” I get it. I used to hate taking PTO. I always felt as though I had to be in the office working unless I was on vacation or stuck in bed unable to move.
Then my boss demanded I started taking PTO. For a boss to say that, that’s leadership! I had never experienced that before, and honestly, it’s only motivated me to work even harder when I am in the office.
I guess what I am getting at is that if you are in an environment where your boss makes you feel guilty for taking PTO or one where they don’t care about the health and well-being of their employees, it’s time for a change.
Just as it is your responsibility to get up and go to work, it’s also your responsibility to know when you need a day off to recharge. Don’t play the victim role. It’s your health. Do it yourself. Change your environment and learn to actually enjoy what you do for a living.
8 Proven Ways to Reduce Stress at Work
So what are some proven ways to reduce stress at work? What can you do to reduce the stress you are feeling and actually enjoy the third of your life that is consumed by work?
Great question. Here are 8 proven ways to reduce stress at work.
1. Take PTO & Take ALL Of It
If your company gives it to you, it’s because they want you to use it. Use this time to do whatever you want whether that means going on a vacation with family or friends, or just taking a day to sit on the couch and watch television. I would recommend doing something more productive with your time, but hey, we are all different. Do what’s going to help you destress and unwind.
2. Take Breaks More Frequently
I am one that needs to get up from my desk close to every hour. This is incredibly important for me to do when I am stressed. In getting up for just a few minutes, I am giving my mind a chance to reset so that it can think clearly again.
Try getting up at least every 90 minutes. After studying elite athletes, musicians, actors, and chess players, Dr. K. Anders Ericsson at Florida State University discovered that the top performers work in approximately 90–minute sessions and then take a break. They focus intensely and then give themselves time to recover and regain energy.
3. Take Lunch Away From Your Desk
If you have a full-time corporate job, I’m pretty sure all companies need to give you at least a 30-minute break for lunch as well as two 15-minute breaks throughout the day. Use this time to get away from your desk, disconnect from work, and get out of the work environment.
4. Take A Nap
Since we’re all working from home right now, use your break to take a small nap! A University of California researcher found that a 60–minute nap improved memory just as much as 8–hours of sleep. Short naps of 20 minutes have shown big benefits as well. They can lead to a 12% decrease in heart disease and daily napping can lead to a 37% reduction.
5. Go To Bed Earlier
Just in case you are like me and can’t fall back asleep once you wake up in the morning, try to get to bed earlier. I know the odds of me actually taking a nap are slim next to none, so to ensure that I get enough sleep, I am usually in bed by 10 pm.
6. Leave Work At Work
I’ll admit that this is hard for me to do. Even though I don’t work when I’m off the clock, I still find myself thinking about work constantly. I even talk about it with others.
One of the best things you can do to reduce work-related stress is to leave work at work. Don’t think about it, don’t answer email, don’t do any of that. Focus on others, more important parts of your life when you are not working.
7. Exercise On A Daily Basis
By now, you’re probably aware that exercise reduces stress, but there are some rarely talked about benefits of exercise as well. Not only does it improve your physical health, but it also improves your mental health and helps you to blow off some unwanted steam/stress.
It can be a 30-minute walk over lunch or a weight training session before or after work. Regardless of when you exercise, just be sure to do it. Your body and mind will thank you later.
8. Breathe And Relax
I know, I know, it sounds so simple, but really, very rarely do we actually take the time out of our day to just breathe and relax. If you’re feeling stressed, take a few moments to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose for a count of three and out through your mouth for a count of five. Do this 5 times and you should have found some stillness within your mind and body.
Before You Go
Is it worth it to work hard and to continue to work hard while you are at work? Absolutely! But your health is more important.
If you find your job dragging you down in any way at all, try to use some of these proven ways to reduce stress at work and see if they work for you. If it still doesn’t help, maybe it’s a sign that you should find something that is going to better suit you.