Are you the type of person who has a hard time managing stress? Not only stress in your personal life, but do you deal with stress in the office as well?
I will admit that this is me in a nutshell. I may still be relatively new to “Corporate America,” and while I might not have the most demanding job out there, I still find myself stressing… a lot. With how much stress I constantly put on myself to be the best that I can be each and every day, I often get looked at as if I’m about to lose my mind.
We all deal with stress. Stress is simply a natural part of human life. Without stress, we wouldn’t have any motivation to continue to move forward and progress in life. There would be nothing motivating us to get out of bed in the morning, to get dressed, to commute to work, or to go to work in the first place. It is stress that propels us forward.
At the same time, however, stress can also prevent us from making any progress towards our goals and dreams. When we experience too much stress, we fail to branch outside of our comfort zones, to take risks on ourselves, or to seek any new and exciting opportunities. The stress of experiencing change can knock all the wind out of our sails.
It’s quite normal to experience stress at work. I mean, after all, companies want to make as much money as possible so they are going to push employees as hard as they possibly can. That, and we need a job so we are going to oblige to their rules.
Stress itself isn’t necessarily the problem. The real problem comes when you continually try to brush off and deal with stress in the office without recognizing how much stress you are putting yourself under, or how it may be negatively impacting your health.
Stress in the Office
According to the CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, studies have found the number of Americans who are “extremely stressed at work” range between 29 percent to 40 percent.
What’s worse is that stress in the workplace has significant health consequences such as an increased risk of getting a cold or flu, to more serious illnesses such as heart disease, insomnia, and any time that there is an increase in stress, there is always an increased risk of stroke.
But because of our inability to say no, most of us would rather deal with the health consequences than to find a job in which we experience less stress. We would rather work ourselves into the ground versus taking a job that pays just a little bit less, a position that has fewer responsibilities, or simply upset those around us.
How to Deal with Stress in the Workplace
I get it, we all have big dreams and aspirations and are told that if we want to achieve these dreams and aspirations, then we need to continue to work.
To answer this, yes, you do need to continue to work. But working harder isn’t always the key in and of itself. You also need to be working smarter. You can work as hard as you want, but without a proper plan, you aren’t going to make much progress. So with that said, here are some of the things that help me to manage stress in the workplace.
1. Time-block your day.
I first learned about time-blocking when I came into my new position as an enrollment counselor. On any given day, I am responsible for helping 200 students and can be contacted by any other student who is enrolled in the university that I work for.
To say that stress can add up quickly would be an understatement. I can be getting my work done one moment and pulled into a completely different direction the next.
This is why time-blocking is huge! Don’t just plan out your day. Delegate certain tasks to different times throughout your day. If you are juggling between emails, calls, meetings, etc. are you really giving your full attention to any single one task? Probably not.
Instead, map out your day in advance. Delegate one hour solely to your emails, another two hours to calls, another one hour to meetings, and then the rest of your day to whatever else you have left remaining. This is only an example, but I hope you get the idea. When you time-block your day, you will have an easier time focusing solely on the task at hand and will experience fewer distractions. All-in-all, this will lead to less stress.
2. Take time for yourself.
Here’s the nice thing about working 8-hour days, your company legally has to give you breaks. You might say that you don’t have time for these breaks, but if that’s the case, then you have simply put too much on your plate.
Use these breaks to get up, to go walk around, to walk outside and get some fresh air, or to simply read a book for 15 minutes. Whatever you have to do, give your mind a break from work and find some stillness in your day. You aren’t doing your mind and your work any favors by simply running yourself into the ground. In fact, the more you do this, the less you are going to accomplish. The quality of your work will plummet as will your energy and overall happiness.
3. Learn to say no if you have too much.
I don’t want to suggest that you should be doing the bare minimum as that isn’t going to be beneficial to your professional growth, but at the same time, taking on too much isn’t going to be beneficial to your professional growth either.
Constantly saying yes to taking on any additional task is just as bad as constantly saying no to taking on any new task. In both situations, you aren’t going to be as productive and efficient as you could be, and you won’t be able to achieve your true potential.
Find balance. Don’t be scared to take on additional tasks and projects, but just make sure that you can manage the workload. If it gets to be too much to the point where you are constantly stressed, start saying no to any new project or task and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Bosses, managers, and employers would much rather you be honest with them so that they can assign the work to somebody who does have the time versus you saying yes and not being able to complete the task to the best of your ability.
4. Keep a planner or calendar close by.
Everybody needs a planner. Regardless of if you are in school, in the professional world, or anything else, you need a planner. Keeping a planner or calendar close by is going to help you to reduce any stress that you may be feeling.
Personally speaking, I am a person who plans too many things that I often forget about them shortly after. It gets to the point that I either forget about these plans entirely, procrastinate until the very last minute, or I replace it with something else because I forgot all about it.
We are all guilty of this, and the only way to fully prevent this is to keep a planner or a calendar. In having one we know exactly where it is that we need to be, when we need to be there by, the tasks that we have set, and the commitments that we have made.
Even if you have a full day mapped out, you will experience less stress from seeing it all laid out in front of you versus knowing you have something to do but can’t remember what it is.
5. Take a job that pays less.
People are going to hate me for saying this, and honestly, when I first thought about it, I hate the idea of it as well. But so far, taking a pay cut was the best decision that I have made for myself in a long time. Not only am I less stressed, but I am finding more enjoyment in the work that I do, and I am progressing and learning more skills than I ever have before.
I don’t want to bash my other job as I actually enjoyed the company and the people that I was working with, but I felt overworked. I felt as if I was doing the work of a manager at a rate that was less.
This eventually caused me to start taking my work home with me. The stress that I felt in the office was the same stress that I was starting to feel at home because work was always on my mind. It didn’t take long for me to start resenting work and to want out.
Eventually, that’s what I ended up doing. I found a new job, I took a pay cut, and I started from scratch. And honestly, it feels amazing because no longer am I expected to do the work of a manager and not getting rewarded for it.
The job that I am currently in is amazing. Because I am less stressed about micromanaging others, I am able to focus on my own growth and make strides in becoming the best employee that I can be. I have learned more and grown more in the five months at my new job than I would have in a year at my previous one. And it’s all because I got over the fear of taking a job that pays less.
Obviously, you have to do what is going to benefit you the most. Everybody has different circumstances. Mine were to the point where I was in a position to take a pay cut to find a job that made me happier. Maybe you don’t have the ability to take a pay cut.
Either way, still find a job that makes you happy, one that treats you the way you deserve to be treated, and one that doesn’t cause significant amounts of stress in the workplace itself. Life is already short the way it is, and it makes absolutely no sense to continue to do something that consumes a third of your day if you are constantly stressed and don’t enjoy it.