In the most recent Stress In America report, which is conducted every year by the American Psychological Association, 61% participants reported that work was a leading cause of stress over the course of the last year. So if you feel like pulling your hair out over your job, you’re not the only one. In fact, you are part of the majority in this case. And maybe it’s not a very happy party to be part of, but at least you’re in good company.
It’s true that everyone experiences stress, and that some stress can be healthy—it keeps us motivated, keeps us wary of potential troubles—but after a certain point, stress begins to work against us. You know how it goes: when you are stressed at work, it becomes harder to focus and harder to perform at your job. And of course the worse you perform at your job, the more stress you experience, and so on and on. Chronic stress can impose a host of negative effects on health too, from sleep, skin and appetite problems, all the way up to cardiovascular problems.
To be our most productive selves, we have to find coping strategies that work for us. Read on below for a few stress-management techniques you can practice at work:
1. Take a short walk on break
Make your breaks count. Even a just a ten-minute walk around the block can dislodge you from your workday stresses, and help you clear your head. Plus a brisk pace can stimulate endorphin production, and endorphins have the added benefit of reducing stress hormones.
2. Have a snack
Running low on energy right when you need it most only exacerbates stress. Keep snacks on hand to refuel throughout the day. Instead of something quick and sugary, opt for lean proteins, or whole grains, which release glucose at a slower, more even pace, making for a steadier supply of energy.
3. Organize your workspace
A critical aspect of effective stress management is training yourself to focus on the moment at hand, and not on the many possible problems that may arise down the road. Decluttering your desk, or whatever your workspace, can help you focus on just one task at a time. So clean off the desk and take the day one task at a time. Researchers also suggest keeping a plant in your workspace can help reduce stress and increase productivity, so consider brightening up your work corner with something green.
Exercise isn’t just important for physical health. Regular aerobic exercise is a great stress reducer, and some studies have even found that exercise can be as effective as medication in treating mild symptoms of depression and anxiety. If your schedule allows, make an effort to carve out time for a quick workout after work or before work.
5. Manage your time
Few things amplify stress like the feeling that you’re running behind schedule. Being more deliberate with your time management can ease the day’s pace, and your stress level in turn. If you often feel a step behind, consider setting your alarm a few minutes earlier to give yourself time in the morning to orient yourself for the day that lies ahead. If the latter half of the day looms all morning heavily, consider prioritizing your more difficult tasks for earlier in the day so that you can end the day on a less stressful note.
6. Set boundaries
These days there’s a lot of pressure to remain connected 24/7. To strike a healthy work-life balance, try setting boundaries for yourself. Make clear to yourself which is work time and which is your time. Then you can shut off the email, put away your paperwork, and try to push your stress out of sight, out of mind, and enjoy your evening.
7. Talk to your supervisor
The most productive employee is a healthy employee who has his or her stress well-managed, which means your supervisor has an incentive to prioritize the well-being of his or her employees. So don’t be shy about asking your boss for the conditions you need to perform your very best work. Maybe this means asking for support from other team members, or for clarification as to your expected outcome, or for access to work-sponsored mental health and wellness resources.
8. Be social
One of the best ways to manage stress is to completely forget about it for a while and have a fun conversation with friends instead. If at all possible in your workplace, try to foster social relationships with your coworkers. Even a quick chat at the water cooler can help pull you out of your stress. If stress continues to be a burden on your wellbeing, you may want to talk to a mental health professional, who will help you identify your stressors, change unhealthy behavior, and develop new, healthier strategies for coping.
We want to know how you deal with stress in the workplace. Join the conversation on social using the hashtags #BeWell, #BeHeard, and #BeThere. If you’ve found any coping strategies that work for you, we want to hear about them!