5 Ways to Manage Stress at Work
By: Rachel Wei / June 24, 2019
Does this sound familiar… There always seems to be a never-ending to-do list that, if it is not physically on your desk, is floating around your head driving you crazy. Or, there’s some last-minute meeting that just got called, so you have to frantically rearrange your plans for the rest of the day. No matter what you do, chances are, you often feel stressed at work.
Feeling stressed isn’t something to feel bad about, and by no means is a measure of your competence. Rather, it’s something everyone encounters and has to learn how to handle in a healthy way.
Although some people are more easily stressed than others, there are practical steps we can all take to manage stress better at work. Follow these five steps to get started.
Step 1: Have a plan for the day
Nothing encourages panic more than having no idea what to do, where to go, or what is on the agenda for the day. Prepping your work one day in advance can help lower your stress levels. Here are a few prep methods that you can check out.
I would suggest leaving 15 min at the end of your day to make a list preparing for the next morning. If you know what you have to do at the beginning of the day, you won’t spend the morning frantically planning out your agenda while you’re still half asleep. Rather, you can grab your cup of coffee, and get to work! Less stress and increased efficiency? Sounds like a deal to me!
Step 2: Be flexible
I know this step seems to counter step 1, but one way to manage stress better at work is to remember that nothing is set in stone. Having a planned agenda for the day is a great way to reduce stress by giving you a general direction of what is on the table, but oftentimes, life happens. Someone calls in sick, a meeting is cancelled, or your boss would love for you to take on an extra project.
Recognizing that life often likes to throw curveballs can help you manage stress better. This awareness will make disruptions less of a surprise, and hopefully less stressful.
Flexibility is also a quality managers look for, and may even take steps to create in the workplace. In an increasingly fast-paced world and work environment, people who can respond promptly to new situations or challenges that pop up are valued members of any team.
Step 3: Check in with yourself
Checking in with how you are feeling throughout the day is important. It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of all that needs to be done. However, it’s imperative to your individual mental and physical well-being to be aware of how you’re doing on an individual health level at work. Maybe you’re feeling a little bit too run down, or feel a cold coming on.
Here’s an awesome guide from the New York Times on how to be more mindful throughout the work day.
Being in tune with how you are feeling throughout the work day can help you manage stress better by bringing awareness to your health, which is arguably more important than any task on the to-do list. Remembering that you are an individual, not a robot that can keep working all the time, can reduce the stress of trying to be a superwoman and accomplish every task, all the time. Check out this TedTalk on how to stay calm in a stressed environment.
Step 4: Prioritize
Prioritizing what needs to be accomplished most urgently can help you better manage stress at work. One way to do this is by batching together similar tasks.
There’s always more to do, so thinking through what needs to be done first, and tackling those tasks can relieve the stress of a never-ending workload. By focusing on and completing one task at a time, you can keep your mind off everything else that is piling up. Prioritizing also helps you push down lower priority tasks. Keeping tasks that don’t need to be immediately addressed out of mind can lower your stress and help you focus on what needs to be done now.
Check out this framework to get started on making your own, customized to-do list that will help you prioritize tasks and lower your stress.
Step 5: Take breaks
It seems that the growing trend is for everyone to work, work, work all the time, even during intended break hours such as lunchtime. A lot of people use lunch to – you guessed it!—do more work, instead of bonding with colleagues or stepping out for a breath of fresh air.
Remembering that you do have built in times for breaks (i.e. mealtimes), and that you can create little five minutes bathroom, snack, or stretching breaks can help you better manage stress at work. There are multiple studies that show that our brains can only focus on a task for so long, and that frequent breaks are beneficial, rather than a waste of time, as they’re often portrayed. So, go ahead—take a break.
Those are just five steps you can take starting today to manage stress better at work. Have suggestions of your own? Comment down below!
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