Workplace stress is one of the most common sources of stress for people.
Excess stress can have an impact on your overall health and well-being, yet it seems impossible to avoid burnout when you’re balancing the demands of your job, your personal career aspirations, and your family. Running from the office to sporting events, concerts, and the like while finding time to keep your home clean and prepare healthy meals is challenging for many.
Even if you’re not married and don’t have children, work-related stress alone can become so consuming that it has an enormous impact on your health. I was a self-proclaimed workaholic for years, using work as an escape from my personal struggles. I worked weekends and overtime weekly, took every extra assignment possible, and often didn’t make it home until after dark.
Finally, my body decided enough was enough. I got sick — and I mean sick — and made a trip to the doctor. I learned my blood pressure was off the charts and I’d somehow lost 10 pounds I never meant to. My doctor asked how my personal life and relationships were going, and it hit me: I didn’t have much of either. I thought I could conquer the depression I’ve spent most of my life battling by throwing myself into work and feeling accomplished, but when I really thought about it, my life felt empty. And lonely. And now my physical health was at risk, too. I told my boss I needed to cut way back and made the conscious effort to regain my work-life balance.
In my research to regain my life, I discovered that this kind of stress can cause mental health issues like depression and anxiety, but it can also reduce your immune health, leaving you more likely to catch viruses and more at risk of chronic illness. Reducing stress is important in all areas of life, and the workplace is an excellent place to start, especially if you think you might be overdoing it.
If you’re feeling stressed out at work, here’s a couple practices to help you achieve greater balance and serenity.
Stop Excessive Multitasking
Multitasking has been proven to be less efficient compared to focusing on a single task at a time. Additionally, multitasking often results in lower-quality work, and it can cause significant stress as well. It may be tempting to work on other things during a conference call, for example, but this creates more pressure and stress for you. When possible, choose to focus on one task at a time.
Even if you’re unable to focus on a single task from start to finish – which may happen if you’re working on a project that will take several weeks or even months – set aside blocks of time when you focus solely on one thing during that time. It may be helpful to organize your workday into blocks of time dedicated to the various projects and tasks you’re responsible for.
Even setting aside half an hour to an hour each day to check and reply to emails, for instance, can be helpful, and getting those smaller communication tasks taken care of first thing can help you focus your attention on other tasks without distraction. This leads not only to better-quality work but also higher work satisfaction.
Take a Few Deep Breaths
Obviously, the workplace is not usually the right place to meditate. However, spending a few moments taking deep, slow breaths with your eyes closed can be extremely beneficial, particularly after a stressful event such as a meeting or a performance review. If you’re feeling anxious or irritated, take a few minutes to decompress and clear your mind. This is especially helpful before responding to a supervisor or coworker in situations in which thinking before you speak is wise.
If you have the chance to do five minutes of meditation (it’s one of our favorite activities), take advantage of that time. Losing a few minutes of your lunch break to reduce your stress levels is worth it to stay on top of your game and allow those minor annoyances to go by the wayside.
Exercise at Your Desk
Small, low key exercises at your desk will keep you alert and work to reduce your stress levels. Exercise is one of the most frequently suggested tactics to reduce your daily stress. Exercising releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in the brain that help to counteract negative emotions, elevate your mood, and give you more energy for the task at hand.
While five minutes of desk exercises won’t have a huge impact on your personal fitness, it will certainly help. If possible, it is best to work in 30 minutes of regular exercise each day. If that’s not possible, desk exercises are great alternatives when combined with other stress reducing tactics.
Take Regular Breaks
It can be tempting to push yourself to work a solid number of hours and just get things done, but studies are showing that short breaks actually benefit productivity. Intermittent breaks throughout a long day of work keep you energized and focused. In turn, this lowers your stress levels. You may want to use these breaks for exercises and short meditation.
Tactics such as the Pomodoro Technique are highly regarded as productivity-boosting strategies in the workplace. Using a timer, work for 25-minute intervals in which you focus on one exclusive task. When the time is up, take a five-minute break. This strategy is said to help minimize distractions by motivating you to stay focused on your priority task, while the 5-minute required break helps to clear your mind and prep you to tackle the next interval with enthusiasm.
This was a tough one for me because I felt guilty spending even a few minutes on anything non-work related. But soon I realized that letting my mind re-charge between tasks actually made me more productive. More than that, I wasn’t so exhausted at the end of the day because I hadn’t been on the go for 10 straight hours. It’ll be an adjustment, but you can start by taking a short break before tackling an especially large project — you’ll likely be surprised at how much more efficiently you work!
Communicate With Coworkers
In order to limit workplace stress, you should be on good terms with your coworkers. Communicate openly but respectfully when someone upsets you. If necessary, don’t be afraid to speak directly to a supervisor about an issue that is making your job stressful. If you fail to communicate with others, any issues that may arise will never be resolved, creating a negative atmosphere and increasing your stress.
Flex Your Crafty Muscles
Small crafts like crocheting, cross stitch, and drawing are wonderful, portable stress relievers. Studies are showing that creativity decreases stress levels, so small activities like these are perfect for your work environment. In your down time, pick up a pencil and doodle or pack a skein of yarn for crocheting. It will distract your mind from workplace stress while bringing a sense of happiness and accomplishment. Morseo, when you leave work, be sure to continue working on creative outlets. That is the most important aspect of your 9 to 5.
Modern work is fast-paced, demanding, and time consuming. Spending a few minutes every few hours focusing on stress reducing techniques will vastly improve your time spent at work and will foster a mindset that allows you to live a more stress-free life.
It may not happen all at once (it certainly didn’t for me), but learning to balance work with the rest of your life will ultimately lead to better living. Take gradual steps — I started by making myself leave work at a set time each day — and work up to the bigger ones. Remember, it’s for the good of your physical health, your mental health, and your relationships.