Many of us experience stress related to our work environment. After all, full-time employees spend about half of their waking hours at work. Often our co-workers become the people we have the most daily contact with. Unfortunately, intense pressure to succeed or complicated interpersonal situations can build tension and lead individuals to feel overwhelmed or burned out and dread going to work in the morning. The good news is that there are some things you can do to manage work stress and improve how you feel about your job.
Take good care of your body. Getting enough sleep, not overdoing it on the office coffee or break-room sweets, and getting regular exercise can help. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try eliminating afternoon caffeine and turning off screens an hour before you want to fall asleep. Develop a regular pre-bedtime routine like a warm bath, cup of herbal tea, or reading a favorite book. You could also try practicing a meditation or relaxation exercise in the evening to help wind down. Physical exercise can be great for boosting your emotional state–it causes the release of mood-boosting hormones and can help you let go of the stress of the day.
Develop boundaries. Due to the development and ever-increasing presence of communication (phone calls, emails, instant messages, webinars, texts, social media, etc), it can be hard to find time to focus on doing your actual work. Blocking out time in your calendar when you are unavailable can be helpful. Alternatively, you can make specific times available for meetings and last-minute tasks so that they don’t crowd out other things.
It’s also important to have good work/life balance, which might mean turning off your phone in the evening or turning off email or message notifications. It can be hard to put your own needs first, but when you feel rested and like you have your own personal space, you will be much more productive when you ARE in the office.
Delegate, prioritize, and communicate. Remember that you are not the only person at your company. Ask co-workers to contribute with tasks that aren’t in your area, or if you feel you won’t be able to get them accomplished in time. It’s important to keep your job title and role in mind. Prioritizing what needs to be done first and breaking those tasks down into smaller steps can help you feel less overwhelmed and have a clear path forward. In cases where you need to have difficult conversations with others, try to be specific and clear about your concerns or complaints, and focus on their actions or behaviors rather than their character. Try to avoid gossip and talking about that individual with people other than the individual themselves.
Practice self-care. This could be as simple as taking a ten minute break during your day to practice a guided meditation. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can help you reduce your work stress by redirecting your attention from negative thoughts or emotions. On your time off, take time to do something fun, like re-engaging with a hobby, or connecting with friends or family. Use your vacation time, stay home when you don’t feel well, and remember that you need to take care of yourself to be your best.
Consider all angles. Difficult or complicated interpersonal situations are not uncommon in work environments. It’s important to keep in mind that our perceptions of these events are just that–our perceptions. Everyone interprets things differently, and it can be helpful to take a step back and try to objectively identify what’s happened. Perhaps you’re making assumptions about someone else’s motives, or allowing your frustration from some other area of your life to bleed into what’s going on at work. Using a thought record (such as the “reframe” tool in the Pacifica app) can help you to break the situation down and get a clearer view. Once you’ve done that and taken a moment to reflect, you can then respond more appropriately.