Low pay, long commutes and unreasonable work loads are the top reasons 80 percent of American workers described themselves as stressed about the jobs. They're uncertain about job security and worried about cuts to workplace benefits. They're also overloaded with various projects, and when they are able to focus on their duties, it doesn't last long: Workers are interrupted an average of seven times an hour.
Major corporate restructuring, constant negotiations and pressure from bosses contribute to the problem. It's easy to see why employees are stressed and harder to know how to fight it. Some work-related stress always will be unavoidable, but you can decide how you will respond in the moment and manage the situation. Here are seven ways to minimize the negative effects of your on-the-job anxiety.
1. Practice breathing techniques.
Research from the Cleveland Clinic has proven deep breathing to be a significant stress reliever. Breathing exercises slow the body’s production of harmful stress hormones.
In an interview with NPR, physician and author Esther Sternberg compared the body's breathing response to the act of driving a car. "When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor," she explained. "When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake."
2. Share your issues with friends.
Talking to a friend about work issues is a great way to vent and unload some pressure. Besides lowering stress levels, talking about work-related problems with a loved one could help you discover a solution you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
3. Express concerns to your boss.
Unfortunately, many who feel stressed at work don't have the courage to initiate a conversation with their boss. However, be advised that troubleshooting is part of your job! If you've pinpointed the cause of your work stress, ask for a meeting to discuss potential ways to alleviate the problem. It might be a matter of sharing your workload, taking time off or clearing up concerns about a project.
4. Schedule your day for productivity.
It’s become almost commonplace to believe a work day must be a full eight to nine hours in a cubicle. Fortunately, this isn't true. Sitting in the same space for this amount of time doesn't lead to productivity. Without the ability to focus on projects assigned to you, you'll only get more stressed. As a consequence, you'll go home tired and have no energy left for family, friends and other interests.
Schedule periodic breaks from your cubicle. Take walks, hydrate yourself, stretch, take an actual lunch and practice breathing exercises to refocus your attention on work.
5. Define your priorities.
Competing deadlines and work overload often are cause for stress. If you feel overwhelmed by projects, it's even more critical to define your top priorities each day.
First, establish your role within the organization. Then, define the company's strategic priorities. Last, determine your personal goals. From this point, you can put together a to-do list that centers on the most important goals that align with both your personal and business aspects.
6. Maintain a healthy diet and sleep pattern.
People who are “too busy” or feel stressed tend to neglect the most important components of a balanced lifestyle: a healthy diet and a regular sleep pattern. Eating poorly stresses the human system, which could make you not only unwell but also lethargic and unproductive at work. Sleep is critical to the body as well as to the brain's recovery process. Going without adequate rest for long periods leads to illness and lowered brain function.
7. Keep your personal time personal.
Make certain your “you” time is truly yours. Stress-related work easily can find its way into your household. This can impact your relationships and affect your ability to disconnect from your office. If you find it hard to turn off work mode, schedule after-work activities that are completely removed from your job to get in the habit of turning off. Speaking of turning off, make liberal use of your phone's power button or do-not-disturb function when you’re away from the office.
Recognizing the first signs of on-the-job-stress is crucial to finding ways to cope with it. Focus on your core goals, organize yourself correctly and establish a routine of calming your nerves so you can be sure to keep anxiety in check.