We all get stressed at work sometimes, but we don't always cope our best. Read more for how to identify stress, how to communicate to alleviate it, and what changes you can make outside the workplace to be happier at work.
Few people are immune to the stresses of working life. This is neither revelatory nor surprising: people's jobs are their livelihoods; a means of securing the necessities of life. So, when things are not going according to plan, it is a natural response to be concerned and even anxious about the implications of what might happen. However, being unable to deal with stress only exacerbates affairs going forward. It is therefore important that you know how to keep stress at a manageable level such that you can work through issues with clarity and confidence. Here is how to manage it:
The first step to alleviating stress is to identify the cause of it. Why do you think you are stressed about work? Do you feel inadequate at your job? Do you not enjoy your work? Do you feel overwhelmed by the demands put on you? Taking some time to reflect and dig for the root of the stress will make it psychologically more manageable and will set you on the path to resolve it.
Whatever the cause, stress and anxiety is easier to manage if you loop others into how you are feeling. Whether it be your boss, colleague, partner, or friend, sharing your angst with someone else will take the problem out of your head and put it onto the table, where you can talk through it and begin devising a troubleshooting strategy. If you are comfortable doing so, raising concerns with your boss will encourage empathy and should take a little pressure off your performance. In addition, your boss is the person best placed to reorient your duties and workload if necessary in order to get you doing more of what you like and enjoying work.
Often people become stressed at work because they cannot see a way to resolve the situation that is causing them stress. But rather than only focusing on problem and outcome, try to break the situation down. Make yourself cognisant of each piece of the puzzle in front of you. From there, you will have a clearer overview of what exactly is creating the issue at hand, which will make it easier to visualise the steps you can take to resolve each part of the problem. If you are facing more general work-related stress, the advice still holds: organising yourself and forming a plan for how you will tackle each task in your duty will give you confidence to do exactly that, by following a problem-solving roadmap of sorts. Personally, I find the Reminders app very useful for planning each part of my day and ensuring I don't forget what needs doing. Every night before bed, I write a list of what I need to do and set it to remind me when I wake up, so I start the day with a clear sense of what I need to achieve. Once you begin ticking off demands, the stress will begin to settle, and you can keep moving forward.
Stress is a sensation that affects both mind and body, but there are steps you can take outside the workplace to alleviate the symptoms of your concerns. One such way is implementing a healthy and regular sleep schedule. Sleep and stress have a problematic relationship: people who suffer from stress have a poorer quality of sleep, and in turn find it harder to be at their best during the day. Furthermore, if you don't get enough sleep at night, your body increases production of stress hormones, making you more prone to work-related stress and interpersonal stress too. This vicious cycle is easy to fall into, so staying on top of your sleep is critical to managing stress. Avoiding caffeine late in the day , skipping screen time before bed , and taking a hot bath before you sleep are all scientifically proven ways of helping you drift off.
Exercise is an incredibly effective tool for managing stress. By working out, you reduce the levels of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol in your body, which helps remedy the physical and emotional symptoms of stress. Exercise is also shown to release endorphins and boost dopamine levels, both of which improve mood and attentiveness, helping you feel better and work better. Exercise also helps you sleep, which as mentioned is vital for coping as best you can.
Many people find themselves consumed by their work lives. But ask yourself: what time do you set aside for yourself, to do the things you find enjoyable and rewarding outside of work? Scheduling regular leisure time every week will help you get out of the work headspace and live a little more holistically.
When people work in high stress environments, a lot is expected of them, and so they expect a lot of themselves. This can be motivating and help people get the most out of themselves, but sometimes we forget that no matter how good or bad we think we are doing, we should always be kind to ourselves. People, especially high functioning people, love to beat themselves up when they're not reaching their lofty ambitions, even though they're still achieving things that require great effort and competence. When things aren't going quite as well as hoped, try not to be harsh on yourself and remember that whilst work is important, happiness and wellbeing are more so, and your primary goal should be to maintain them.
If things are really awful and you're stuck in a confused mess of despair, consider reaching out to a therapist or other kind of mental health professional. Doing this can help recalibrate your mental state and teach you ways of better managing the stresses of work and life.
1 O' Callaghan et al.,"Effects of Caffeine on Sleep Quality and Daytime Functioning", Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, US National Library of Medicine, 7 December 2018.
2 Sleep Foundation, "Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed", National Sleep Foundation, 28 July 2020.
3 Shahab Haghayegh, Sepideh Khoshnevis, Michael H. Smolensky, Kenneth R. Diller, Richard J. Castriotta. "Before-Bedtime Passive Body Heating by Warm Shower or Bath to Improve Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" Sleep Medicine Reviews, August 2019
4 Harvard Men's Health Watch, "Exercising to Relax: How Does Exercise Reduce Stress?", Harvard Health Publishing, February 2011 (updated July 2020).
5 Mayo Clinic, "Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms", Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 27 September 2017.