Feeling stress at work is fairly inevitable, and temporary higher-levels of stress (often called “acute stress”) are okay. In fact, short bursts of stress can actually translate into better mental or physical performance, especially under conditions where stress is generally low and the individual is trained or practiced in the task at hand.
Stress becomes a problem when it becomes consistent and excessive (often called “chronic stress”) which can interfere with not only your productivity but can negatively impact your mental and physical health
. Your ability to manage chronic stress and cope with times of acute stress can be what determines your level of success at work. Hence, it’s important to understand how to keep your stress levels in check. Easier said than done, right? Here’s a list of helpful tips you can use to reduce your stress levels.
1. Know the symptoms of stress
High levels of stress aren’t usually symptom free, and the faster you can identify that you might be working yourself too hard, the better. If you are feeling more overwhelmed, irritable, and/or withdrawn at work than usual, this could be a sign that stress is taking its toll on you. Some signs and symptoms you should watch out for include: anxiety, depression, apathy, fatigue, sleep difficulty, tense muscles, headaches, stomach problems, and increased use of alcohol and/or drugs (often used as a coping mechanism.)
The moment you notice any of these red flags, it’s time to re-prioritize your workload. Take a step back from less important tasks, focus on the ones that will have the most impact, and delegate tasks that others can easily take over. Use your observations about your overall mood and disposition to help you manage unwanted stress before it turns into a chronic issue.
2. Stop giving excuses for not taking care of yourself
Oftentimes, when we are stressed, we end up prioritizing the work in front of us over our own well-being. De-prioritizing your own happiness and health is a slippery slope into chronic stress and fatigue. No matter what is going on at work, at home, or with your family, you deserve time in your life where you focus entirely on taking care of you
If you just noticed that you haven’t taken care of yourself in awhile, now is a good time to start. Some people worry they will seem selfish if they take time for themselves, but the reality is that if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else either. The stronger, happier, and healthier you are, the more productive, helpful, and effective you will be at your job, your role at home, and your life in general.
You don’t have to join a gym and start drinking smoothies right this second. Focus on small steps you can take improve areas of your life where you may be lacking, and work up to being a more health conscious person in general. Drink more water throughout the day, incorporate a multivitamin in your morning routine, go to bed an hour earlier than usual, choose a salad over fries with your meal, reach out to someone to talk when you’re feeling down, etc. Commit to a few small changes at a time, and over the course of the next year you could turn an entirely new leaf.
3. Get organized
Handling stress is all about regaining control of your life. A great way to do that is by prioritizing and organizing yourself. Don’t let an endless list of tasks overwhelm you. Break that list down by priority. Translate larger tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Having a game plan will automatically reduce the stress all of your to-do lists are causing you.
Maybe you need to buy a planner, maybe you need to take advantage of your phones calendar or task list apps more, or maybe you just need to do a huge spring cleaning session to clear out unnecessary things in your office space. Whatever helps you take the burden of the stress you’re feeling and reduce those obligations into accomplishable tasks: do it.
Keep a well-balanced schedule, take regular breaks, delegate responsibility when you can, and always keep in mind you are not expected to carry the world on your shoulders. Next chance you get, maybe even take a vacation. Bahamas, anyone?