On-the-job stress can feel like someone sucker punched you. Or it can feel like a slow burn. No matter how your stress feels, you’re among the three-quarters of American workers who have reported physical symptoms due to workplace stress.
Researchers are still analyzing the consequences of workplace stress on our health, but what we do know is this: You may not be able to do anything about the cause of stress in the workplace, but your response to it is in your hands. Take these steps:
Don’t try to be the hero. Getting burned out won’t help anyone. Instead of wasting time complaining about how much work is on your plate, politely but firmly communicate with your superiors that you’ve reached your limit and can’t handle additional assignments at the moment.
Let go of your inner perfectionist. Your word for the week is “delegate.” Trying to micromanage everyone or act as if you’re the only one who can do a job leads to increased workplace stress. But don’t try to overhaul your working style in one fell swoop, either. Find small, one-time tasks or projects to hand off to others, and don’t fret about them not doing the work exactly the way you would.
Seek help. Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness? This behavior isn’t much help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Understand that saying you need assistance will likely feel uncomfortable at first. Start by asking for help on something small, and then work up to requesting assistance with the bigger stuff.
Step away. Our natural inclination when we’re feeling the pressure of a deadline is to push harder. But after a while all that pushing doesn’t lead to better focus—or better work. The best thing you can do then is is step away from your desk to recharge and regenerate. Take a short walk, sit in the park across the street for 30 minutes or meditate. The break is key is to sharpening your mind.
Check in with loved ones. When we’re stressed, we’re tempted to shut out friends and families so we can turn all of our attention to the work and get caught up. And while spending time with people who can’t help you finish a big project may seem like a luxury, but it’s exactly the type of interaction you may need most. The emotional support is invaluable, and they just might have a helpful perspective you haven’t considered.
Think about tomorrow. Remember that this, too, shall pass. And when it does, you’ll look back at this time from a better place. Remind yourself that the experience could prove helpful in the future.
Stick to your routines. Don’t let work-related stress cause you to ignore your non-work routines: exercising, getting a spa treatment or hanging with your social network. You might not be able to do all of your rituals, but find a way to do one of them. Resist the temptation to skip activities outside of work. Your health and emotional well-being are more important than anything on your desk.
According to a U.S. Department of Labor database, the top five most stressful jobs are:
- police, fire and ambulance dispatchers
- anesthesiologist assistants
- nurse anesthetists
- telephone operators