Even if you love your job, stress happens. It’s not always a bad thing—a reasonable amount of stress instills a sense of urgency that motivates you to achieve your goals. At the same time, of course nobody wants to feel stressed out!
When stress becomes overwhelming, it can manifest physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s why learning to manage stress appropriately is crucial, but that’s often easier said than done. Don’t give up hope! There are some effective steps you can take to reduce negative stress, or at least handle it like a boss!
Here are five tips to help you stay calm, cool, and collected, no matter what the workday throws your way.
1. Identify the Root of Your Stress
Stressors aren’t always immediately recognizable, especially in a work environment that includes a wide variety of responsibilities. Let’s say you feel overworked. That’s a start, but why do you feel overworked?
Is the team leader giving you more work than you can handle? Have you not been properly planning and organizing tasks? Are you struggling with time management? Are other employees not keeping up?
Once you’ve determined exactly why you feel overworked, you can start making positive changes to reduce or even eliminate those stressors.
Besides identifying the general root of your stress, take this concept a further and keep track of specific moments when you feel stressed. After all, stress can come from many directions simultaneously—it may not be just one thing causing you to feel overwhelmed.
Next time you feel stressed, take a moment to record your thoughts. Writing them down is a powerful way to identify stressors, but even just acknowledging them mentally can really help. Where were you when the stress occurred? What were you doing? Was anyone else involved? Has this happened before? How often does it happen? How did you react?
Once you really start to focus on exactly why you’re stressed out, it’s so much easier to make adjustments—minor or major—to make those occurrences less and less frequent until they’re gone entirely.
Communication is essential as you make changes. Be respectful, but be assertive if necessary. Your mental health is the first priority. After all, it’s impossible to be a solid employee and a team player if your mental health is suffering.
Most supervisors will understand that happy employees are more productive, and one employee’s low morale can affect the whole team, so making positive changes truly is a win-win for everyone involved. If your boss isn’t willing to work with you to prioritize your mental health, it may be time to seek other employment options.
2. Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Often habits at home can affect how you feel at work. For example, if you’re not getting a good night’s rest, you’re probably going to feel irritable at work. Even just skipping breakfast may cause you to feel hangry until lunch break!
Physical, mental, and emotional health go hand-in-hand, so don’t overlook the power of eating healthy food, staying hydrated, avoiding harmful substances, getting a good night’s rest, and exercising regularly.
Beyond treating yourself well physically, try not to let your mental and emotional struggles define you. Stress can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you let it—getting stressed out about getting stressed out is a very real thing! Be compassionate and forgiving with yourself, and remember that you’re only human. Stress happens to everyone. You’re not alone.
3. Take Steps to Improve Teamwork
All too often, the best employee is also the stressed employee. In most job settings, a strong team is much more effective than one all-star team member. If you feel like you’re carrying too much of the load, try to uplift the people around you.
There are many ways you can accomplish this. Performing fun teamwork and stress management activities can help to bring unity and new perspectives to the team. Try helping employees when they’re struggling, and lead them by example. Even a few words of encouragement can really help underachieving employees to get inspired and motivated.
4. Be Realistic With Goals and Expectations
Self-imposed stress is very real. As a professional, it’s natural to want to push hard to advance your career. The problem is that your well-intentioned passion and drive can turn on you if you’re not careful. It’s important to be realistic with yourself and your co-workers so you don’t end up burning the candle at both ends.
Be kind to yourself. Understand that everyone has a limit. While being a hard worker is admirable, going overboard will only backfire. Set reasonable goals and expectations. You’ll feel good about achieving them more often, and when you go a step further, that’s just icing on the cake.
As the old saying goes, working smarter is often preferable to working harder, especially if your hard work is coming at the cost of your mental and emotional well-being.
5. Talk to Someone
While embracing some coping skills for anxiety and stress on your own is important, trying to manage stress alone can be a stressful task in and of itself! Humans are social. Just talking to a friend, family member, or colleague can really help to put things in perspective and remind you of what’s really important in life.
Besides confiding in people you know, talking to a mental health professional can be incredibly helpful. Each and every individual is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing stress and other common mental and emotional struggles. A qualified professional can help to identify your specific triggers and also provide personalized recommendations on how to overcome them.
While seeking professional guidance may seem unnecessary if you’re just feeling stressed out from time to time, it’s important to remember that stress can cause and exacerbate many other physical, mental, and emotional problems, especially if left unchecked. Making changes now will only lead to positive outcomes in the future.
Take It One Day at a Time
It’s virtually impossible to eliminate stress entirely, but even tiny changes can yield big results. Growth isn’t immediately perceptible to the human eye. It takes ongoing effort to keep correcting the course so you stay on track. Try to be mindful of when you’re stressed, take a few deep breaths, and then see what you can do to fix it. Stress management is often a learned skill—the more you practice, the better you get.