According to research, the percentage of Americans who are stressed at work is high, and it’s only getting higher. According to the CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, studies have found the number of Americans who are “extremely stressed at work” range between 29 percent to 40 percent.1
Unfortunately, work stress has significant health consequences that range from the relatively benign—more colds and flu—to the more serious, like heart disease and metabolic syndrome.2 But, because stress at work is so common, finding a low-stress job may be difficult or impossible for many people. A more realistic choice would be to simply adopt more effective strategies to reduce stress at work. Here are some stress management techniques to try.
Start Your Day off Right
After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combating road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of something healthy, many people come in already stressed, and more reactive to stress at work. In fact, you may be surprised by how much more reactive to stress you are when you have a stressful morning. If you start off the day with good nutrition, proper planning, and a positive attitude, you may find the stress of the workplace rolling off your back more easily.
Be Clear on Requirements
A factor that contributes to job burnout is unclear requirements. If you don’t know exactly what’s expected of you, or if the requirements keep changing with little notice, you may find yourself much more stressed than necessary. If you find yourself falling into the trap of never knowing if what you’re doing is enough, it may help to have a talk with your supervisor and go over expectations, and strategies for meeting them. This can relieve stress for both of you!
Stay Away From Conflict
Because interpersonal conflict takes a toll on your physical and emotional health, and because conflict among co-workers is so difficult to escape, it’s a good idea to avoid conflict at work as much as possible. That means don’t gossip, don’t share too many of your personal opinions about religion and politics, and try to steer clear of colorful office humor. Try to avoid those people at work who don’t work well with others. If conflict finds you anyway, learn how to deal with it appropriately.
Even if you’re a naturally disorganized person, planning ahead to stay organized can greatly decrease stress at work. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late and rushing to get out at the end of the day. Keeping yourself organized means avoiding the negative effects of clutter, and being more efficient with your work.
Another surprising stressor at work is physical discomfort. You may not notice the stress you experience when you’re in an uncomfortable chair for a few minutes. But if you practically live in that chair when you’re at work, you can have a sore back and be more reactive to stress because of it. Even small things like office noise can be distracting and cause low-grade frustration. Do what you can to ensure that you’re working from a quiet, comfortable and soothing workspace.
Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximize one’s time and get more done in a day. Then people started realizing that when they had a phone in their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) suffered. There is a certain kind of frazzled feeling that comes from splitting one’s focus that doesn’t work well for most people. Rather than multitasking, try a new strategy known as chunking.
Walk at Lunch
Many people are feeling ill effects from leading a sedentary lifestyle. One way you can combat that, and manage stress at work at the same time, is to get some exercise during your lunch break and perhaps take short exercise breaks throughout the day. This can help you blow off steam, lift your mood, and get into better shape.
Keep Perfectionism in Check
Being a high achiever can help you feel good about yourself and excel at work. Being a perfectionist, on the other hand, can drive you and the people around you little nuts. Especially in busy, fast-paced jobs, you may not be able to do everything perfectly. But striving to just do your best and then congratulating yourself on the effort is a good strategy. Your results will actually be better and you’ll be much less stressed at work.
Listen to Music on the Drive Home
Listening to music brings many benefits and can offer an effective way to relieve stress after work. Combating the stress of a long day at work with your favorite music on the drive home can make you less stressed when you get home, and more prepared to interact with the people in your life.
By Elizabeth Scott, MS and Reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW