It’s not surprising that the American Psychology Association found that nearly 75% of Americans identify work as a significant source of stress in their lives. The continuing struggling economy has caused many of us to feel like we are on an emotional rollercoaster. Budget cuts and layoffs are common these days, resulting in increased fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.
Some workday stress is normal, however excessive stress can impact your health and interfere with your productivity and ability to perform your job. It’s important you remain in tune with your body so you recognize the warning signs of excessive stress and take steps to effectively manage it.
- Look for these warning signs and symptoms:
- Feeling irritable or anxious
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Stomach problems
- Social withdrawal
- Using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope
Managing Workplace Stress
While we can’t control everything in our work environment, there are a few simple ways to manage workplace stress that can leave you feeling in control and better able to cope with the pressure.
Before work: Try leaving 10–15 minutes earlier in the morning so you’re not rushed. While driving, practice deep breathing. Loosen your grip on the steering wheel, breathe, and focus on relaxing. As you breathe, let your shoulders relax and let the tension go.
Throughout the workday: Plan regular five-minute breaks to walk away from your desk. At lunch time, try eating in a new location where you can eat slowly and enjoy your time. When planning your day, create a balanced schedule, prioritize tasks, and break larger projects into smaller steps so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Don’t overcommit yourself by trying to fit too much into one day. Don’t hesitate to delegate responsibility, when appropriate. Be willing to compromise with co-workers and find middle ground. When appropriate, humor can help lessen a stressful situation. Sharing a laugh or funny story is a great way to lighten the mood.
After work: Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing, get regular exercise — it’s a powerful stress reliever. Strive for 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity on most days.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Good nutrition will help you keep your energy levels up, stay focused, and minimize mood swings. In addition, try to get eight hours of sleep each night. Keeping a regular schedule when you go to bed and wake can help you get a good night’s sleep, which in turn can help keep emotions in balance.
Resist the temptation to reach for alcohol or drugs to take the edge off of your stress. Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but too much can cause increased anxiety as it wears off. More importantly, get support from those close to you. Reach out to your support network and don’t hesitate to discuss your worries with a close friend or family member to help you get through times of stress.
One step at a time: Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a total lifestyle overhaul. Small changes can increase your energy, lift your spirit, improve your mood, and make you feel like you’re in control. Take things one step at a time, and as you make more positive lifestyle choices, you’ll soon notice a reduction in your stress levels both at work and at home.
Living Well: Stress