It’s often said that work isn’t meant to be enjoyable – that’s why it’s called work and not fun. We generally assume that stress comes with the territory.
Occasional bouts of work-related stress are normal. But chronic stress at work turns even the most ambitious and disciplined professional into a ticking time bomb.
The solution – for many – is to take steps to manage work-related stress. We can’t eliminate stress from our professional lives, but we can do things to keep it from causing harm to our health and wellness.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at six tips for managing stress at work:
Recognize the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety
Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. When it comes to work-related stress, the primary culprit could be something referred to as high-functioning anxiety. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety could put you on the path to managing stress at work. They include:
- Difficulty saying no
- Dwelling on mistakes
- Fear of failure
- Nail-biting and other nervous ticks
If any of these describes what you’re experiencing, the source of your work-related stress could be high-functioning anxiety.
Take time off
Many professionals are afraid to take time off due to a fear of being perceived as work-shy. They’re also reluctant because they’re afraid of falling behind on their assignments. But if your employer offers paid time off, there’s no shame in using it as a way to decompress and unwind. What’s more, you don’t need to plan an epic and expensive vacation to justify taking time off; a relaxing staycation at home – even if it’s only for a few days – can make a huge difference in reducing your stress levels.
Be honest with bosses and coworkers
Are you feeling increasingly overwhelmed at work? If so, you probably go out of your way to pretend everything is fine. While that might work for a while, an ever-growing workload combined with an ever-decreasing sense of ability will likely lead to a massive case of burnout. Rather than hide your stress from bosses and coworkers, find ways to politely and proactively bring it to their attention. Tell them you’re doing your best while also saying you’re open to any and all possible solutions. Chances are your bosses and coworkers will want to help you step back from the ledge.
Speak with a licensed therapist
Scheduling an appointment with a licensed therapist in order to talk about work-related stress could be just what the doctor ordered. Even if the conversations rarely, if ever, touch on work, you could end up realizing the source of your stress comes from elsewhere. For instance, an insatiable desire to be a people-pleaser could be rooted in childhood trauma rather than perceived pressure from your supervisor.
If your job has you sitting at a desk for eight hours a day or more, you need to take small breaks every 30 minutes. Those with more active lines of work still need to take breaks, but it can be once every hour or 90 minutes. These breaks don’t have to be long and they don’t have to involve doing anything in lieu of work. Simply stepping outside and breathing some fresh air for five minutes can be enough to help manage work-related stress.
Take work-life balance seriously
There’s been a lot of talk recently about work-life balance. For highly committed and dedicated professionals, these discussions often go in one ear and out the other. But maintaining work-life balance is more than a trending topic; it’s a recipe for long-term health, wellness, and success. Those who neglect their personal lives in pursuit of professional goals are forgoing countless opportunities to decompress and unwind. They’re also allowing work to consume every waking hour, leading to resentments, regrets, and a sense of missing out on what matters most.
As Red Forman says, “If it wasn’t work, they wouldn’t call it work! They’d call it super-wonderful-crazy-fun time. Or skip-a-dee-doo!”
Sure, it’s a humorous statement spoken by a fictional character, but it highlights the fact that work is inherently stressful at times. But if work-related stress seems never-ending or slowly choking you to death, it’s time to step back and think about ways to manage it going forward.
Michael Driver is a freelance writer from Texas. He enjoys writing about history, movies, and sports. Michael can be reached at [email protected].