You’re not alone if your job or career is stressing you out. Learning how to deal with stress at work is more important than you may realize. Among the workers in the United States, more than 60% feel stress 3 days a week or more, on average.
The good news is that there are simple ways you can eliminate or at least deal with the stress you might be feeling in the workplace.
1. Get enough sleep
The simplest (but not always the easiest) way to deal with stress in the workplace is done outside of the workplace.
Sleep is arguably one of the most important factors when it comes to your mood and mental health. Ensuring you’re getting enough sleep every night (around 8 hours) helps give you the mental fortitude and cognitive energy to deal with the stresses of the 9 to 5.
Sometimes, what stresses us out at work begins with how we react to what’s happening at work. If you find yourself more sensitive to things happening at work, or easily overwhelmed with stress from seemingly small things, take a step back and look at your mental health.
There are other factors but most people who work hard don’t receive enough sleep. Take some time to ensure you’re in the proper headspace at work before determining that it’s actually your work that’s stressing you out.
2. Resist trying to be perfect at everything
It’s not uncommon for the highest performers and hardest workers to be the ones that deal with the most stress.
There’s nothing wrong with giving a career you care about your all, however, be careful that you’re not trying to be perfect at every aspect of your work.
Some self-awareness is really important here. Whether it’s realizing that there’s simply some things you’ll never be perfect at or realizing there’s people at your work that can do a better job than you can, learn to let go at your obsession with perfection.
It’s not about becoming complacent or lazy. It’s realizing when something is good enough for most people, or when the law of diminishing returns starts getting into play where working on something more becomes worth less and less of your time and energy. Especially your mental health.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
There comes a point at work, where you realize that the best approach not only to your own sanity, but for the sake of your coworkers, is to better pick your battles.
It’s tempting, especially when you’re new and eager to make your mark, to tackle every issue, conversation, project, and idea that comes your way.
It’s tempting to try to give your attention and energy to as many things happening around the organization as possible.
However, you’ll find that this quickly begins to drain you.
The better approach is to focus on what you can have the most impact on but what also has the most impact on you.
Narrow your focus at work, and while you do, don’t sweat the small stuff. Most things that happen, most issues, most conflict, and most challenges are ultimately not that big of a deal.
Unless your line of work is life or death or deals with life or death, don’t take it too seriously.
4. Avoid the coworkers that gossip, play politics, and are negative
This can be a challenging philosophy to follow at work, since you can’t really choose who you work with, but try to avoid people who gossip, play politics, and have a cynical and negative attitude.
Even if you can’t physically avoid these people, try not to engage them when they bring up gossip or act cynically.
Instead, your best approach here is to be more optimistic and positive at work, and focus on productive and constructive conversations.
It’s very easy (and sometimes entertaining) to listen or become involved in office gossip and politics. But you’ll start to find it can become exhausting. Worse yet, get too involved and it begins to stress you out.
It might seep into your opinion of the place you work at, and it might even affect your work. It can make you more paranoid and cynical as well.
Even if what’s being said or gossiped about is true, be the shining light that works on improving the culture and making the place you work at, a better place to work at.
5. Prioritize the most important tasks first thing in the day and week
If it’s your actual work that’s causing you stress, or you’re dreading the things you have to do at work, ensure you’re prioritizing the most important tasks first every day, and early in the week.
“Eat the frog” as Brian Tracy says. The more you put things off, the longer the stress about doing the thing lingers. Plus, just imagine the relief you’ll feel after you finish this task. Imagine how much energy it will leave you for the rest of the things you’ll need to work on.
6. Take regular breaks
This doesn’t just mean your lunch break. This can be as simple as taking a minute to have a mental break where you close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and disconnect from worrying about the future and relax yourself.
Of course, if your work allows it, take more breaks, even if it’s just a few minutes to walk around the office. Even if it’s just a few minutes to talk to a coworker about their weekend. Even if it’s a few minutes to use the bathroom and wash your face.
Don’t underestimate the effect of not breaking up your work with a few breathers. It won’t just help you deal with stress, but it can make you much more productive.
7. Leave your work at work
In this connected world, it’s becoming more and more difficult to unplug.
This holds even more true in the work world.
Whether it’s messaging apps, emails, text messages, or simply being able to get work done through your phone, it’s tempting to allow work to follow us home, even when we’re off the clock.
It’s important to work towards leaving your work at work and not allowing yourself to develop bad habits.
Some extreme tips are to leave work phones and work computers at work, so you’re not tempted to check these devices at home. This might mean always getting your work done in the office, even if this means staying a few extra hours to ensure that happens.
If that’s not possible or doesn’t apply to you, practice scheduling your personal time at home, just like you might schedule meetings or tasks at work. If you find yourself always reaching for the work phone or checking the work email or Slack, you might need to simply schedule the time where you spend time with the family or yourself. Develop that discipline muscle.
In addition, leaving your work at work means mentally as well, not just physically.
This can be much more challenging but allowing your work to follow you home and dwelling and worrying about work things at home isn’t worth your energy. Leave it for when you get back to the office. You’ll handle it when you’re at work. You’re at home now.
8. Practice mindfulness at the office
All your stress comes from your thoughts.
Your thinking might place you in the past, dwelling on something you did at work or that happened, or place you in the future, worrying about an upcoming presentation or task.
The best way to deal with stress at work is to get out of your head and into the moment.
When you’re stressed, you’re lost in thought.
We suffer more often in imagination than in realitySeneca
To get out of your thoughts, and eliminate stress, practice mindfulness.
An easy way to do this is to practice mindfulness meditation.
Try the practice above. Find a quiet spot in the office and take at least 5 minutes to be mindful.