International Stress Awareness Week is November 4th through 8th. In honor of stress awareness, we’ll address a very serious and common problem: workplace stress. Almost everyone experiences stress in the workplace. There are a multitude of reasons employees might experience stress at work including a toxic company culture, a heavy workload or angry customers. Some stress can be good. The right kind of stress motivates us and gives a sense of purpose. However, there are types of stress one should avoid if possible. Bad stress can have a negative impact not just on mental health but also on physical health. According to the American Institute of Stress, 34% of respondents reported difficulty sleeping and 12% had called in sick due to work stress. Since stress at work can’t completely be avoided, what should you do to combat it? Keep reading for ideas on how to cope with job-related stress.
Keeping a journal has been scientifically proven to counteract many of the negative effects of stress. Journaling can help you get out feelings that you can’t express at work. Writing down your thoughts is therapeutic and gives you a safe place to be your true self. There are no rules for how to write. You may choose to go through the details of each day or to brainstorm ideas for solving a problem. The important thing is that you turn to your journal on a consistent basis.
Healthy boundaries are important to preventing and relieving work-related stress. The boundaries you set will depend upon your occupation, company culture and personality. You may need to stop answering calls and checking work email after a certain time. Alternatively, you might decide to avoid negative co-workers whenever possible. Identify boundaries that are being crossed and whether or not it’s possible to change your behavior in order to protect yourself.
Find Healthy Outlets
Many times we turn to unhealthy behaviors to combat stress. However, these unhealthy habits can actually make stress worse. Instead of internalizing negative feelings or creating unhealthy coping mechanisms, find some healthy outlets for your stress. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve health. You may also find that creating something, even if it’s just a simple drawing, makes you feel happier. Whatever outlet you choose, just be sure that it improves your physical and/or mental well-being and doesn’t add to your stress.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
The power of self-talk has been well-documented by mental health experts. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts throughout the day, write them down. Then, find something positive to counter each thought. For example, you may think your work is never good enough for your manager. Instead, consider that although you put forth your best effort you can’t control how others respond. Just because your boss does not praise you or critiques your work does not mean you are a failure. And when you do something wrong, “I constantly make mistakes” can be turned into “I am learning from my mistakes and getting better at my job”. There are ways to be honest with yourself while also framing things in a positive way.
Breathing exercises are great for quick stress relief anywhere, anytime. You won’t always be able to walk away from the office for a real break, but deep breathing can provide a mini time out from the pressures of work. Inhale deeply and hold the breath for four seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.
Work stress can’t be completely avoided. But there are methods that will help you reduce the negative impacts of stress on your mental and physical health. And if you’ve tried to reduce stress but your career is still causing unbearable amounts of strain on your life, it may be time to consider leaving your job for better opportunities.