Whether it’s because of the seasonal flux or upcoming tax deadline, April is officially Stress Awareness Month. Work can be a breeding ground for stress: big projects, tight deadlines, high octane presentations, important meetings… the list goes on and on. Some stress is normal, but if left unchecked, stress can interfere with your concentration, productivity, creativity, mood and motivation, and even lead to health problems such as heart disease, obesity, hypertension, depression and anxiety. Follow these tips to have a healthier and less stressful day at work.
Make the Most of Your Breaks
Sustaining concentration for long periods of time is both physically and mentally impossible. You will be much more productive if you try to punctuate your work with short breaks throughout the day. Chat with your coworkers, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, watch funny animal videos on YouTube, step outside for a minute, or just get up from your desk and go for a midday coffee run.
If you have a full hour for your lunch break, make the most of your time. Try to fill your break with something to shake up the routine of your day. Head to the local branch of your gym if you have one, or just take a brisk walk around the block. Exercise is a known—and effective—stress reliever. Get out of the office and meet a friend for lunch, or hide away in a quiet corner of your office and take the time to catch up on that novel you’ve been reading.
Follow a Schedule
A big cause of workplace stress is the anxiety of having too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. Creating a schedule, and following it, can help you feel more in control of your work. Organizing your activities into set blocks of time allows you to keep track of your efficiency and assess your progress so that you are aware of everything you have to do and how much time you can realistically allot to each task. Just don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t follow your schedule to a T; be sure to allow yourself a cushion of extra time in case some activities take longer than expected.
Take Enjoyment in Your Work
Think about it. Which causes you more stress: doing something you don’t want to do or doing something you do want to do? While every job has aspects you do and don’t like, try to focus on what you enjoy most about your job. Rewarding yourself after doing a task you don’t like as much by following it with one you do can make the more unpleasant task more bearable and give you something to look forward to. If you hate the monotony of checking Excel sheets, follow it up with something creative like designing flyers. If you have endless phone calls to make, give your voice a rest after by organizing your desk or proofreading documents.
Strike a Work/Life Balance
Maintaining a clear delineation between your work and your outside life is important to keep stress at bay. Try to leave the office at the same time every day and leave your work and your worries at your desk for the night. If you’re taking your work home with you, you allow your work—and any accompanying stress—to carry over into the rest of your life. Cultivate aspects of your life outside of work. Meaningful pursuits outside of work to look forward to, such as spending time with friends and family and devoting time to hobbies and learning new skills, provide you with outlets to reenergize and nurture other parts of yourself aside from your work identity. Leading a healthy lifestyle, limiting junk food and eating nutritious, balanced meals, as well as getting plenty of sleep on weeknights and making time for exercise, are also crucial.
Talk to Your Employer
Employers are catching on to the toll—in terms of both financial and human capital—of pervasive stress. There has recently been a slew of research on ways to alleviate employee stress, such as bringing pets to work and employer-sponsored meditation and yoga programs, and thereby boost workplace productivity, morale and efficiency.
How do you handle stress in the workplace? Have any great strategies to share? Sound off in the comments below.
Overwhelmed by Workplace Stress? You're Not Alone (American Psychological Association)
Stress Research: 10 New Things We Learned this Year, for National Stress Awareness Month (Huffington Post)
Stressed? Be Kind to Your Coworkers