10 Ways to Ease Workplace Stress
Follow these mindful strategies to reduce stress on the job and improve your overall mental health.
You would be hard-pressed to find an adult in the workforce today who has not had a stressful job at one time. There always seems to be too much to do and not enough time. Throw in government spending cuts to healthcare and a pandemic on top of that, and it may feel like stress in the healthcare field is the new normal.
In fact, stress in the workplace has been growing steadily in recent years. According to The American Institute of Stress (AIS), 83 percent of workers in the United States suffer from work-related stress. And in the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America™ 2020 survey, 61 percent of participants cited work as their most common source of stress.
Stress is a normal response to the demands of work and can actually benefit your job performance when experienced in small doses. However, excessive or ongoing daily stress in the workplace is unhealthy and can affect your mental and physical well-being both at work and at home, leading to fatigue, burnout, and even injury.
Are you stressed? See “12 Physical and Emotional Signs of Stress” to determine if you are.
12 Physical and Emotional Signs of Stress
Stress can cause a multitude of symptoms, including:
1. Chest pain or pounding heart
4. Headaches or muscle tension
5. Fast, shallow breathing
6. Loss or change of appetite
7. Sleep disturbances or insomnia
8. Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
9. Racing thoughts
10. Excessive worrying; feeling tearful
11. Irritability or anger
12. Difficulty concentrating
It’s almost impossible to alleviate all stress in the workplace, but there are strategies you can adopt to manage high-stress situations and find a positive work-life balance.
Common Sources of Workplace Stress
The first step toward managing stress is to identify your stressors. Consider the following common sources of stress in the workplace:
- Time pressure
- Excessive workload
- Regular overtime; working through breaks; taking work home
- Limited control over work tasks and decision making
- Conflicting or unclear job expectations
- Job insecurity
- Low levels of recognition
- Conflict with colleagues or managers; poor communication
- Lack of support from management
If you identify with a few or many of these common stress factors, it may be time to take steps toward stress management.
Take Steps to Manage Stress
Once you have identified what stresses you and how you respond, it is easier to formulate a plan for stress reduction. Stay positive and incorporate the following beneficial activities into your lifestyle.
- Get active: Exercise is a proven path to feeling better and clearing your thoughts.
- Sleep: Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for alleviating stress.
- Form healthy habits: Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking, or caffeine to cope. Meditate, listen to music, or do some yoga instead.
- Practice self-care: Take time during the workday to do a breathing exercise or take a short walk. Outside of work, socialize, relax, read, travel, or do any other activity that allows you to disconnect and recharge.
- Establish boundaries: Don’t check work email or answer work phone calls from home unless necessary. “Switch off” when you leave work.
- Be present: Attachment to devices is associated with higher stress levels. “Constant checkers” feel more disconnected and are less likely to meet with family and friends — a great source of support — in person.
- Connect: Talking with your support network, whether coworkers, friends, or family, can help you see things in a different way and help you find solutions to stressful situations.
- Help others: Helping others by volunteering or some other means not only feels good but helps you put your problems in perspective.
- Talk it out: Talk to your manager if you are feeling stressed and come up with a plan to alleviate stress while maintaining productivity.
- Acceptance: You can’t control everything. Accept the things you cannot change and focus on the things you have control over.
It may be helpful to chart your challenges and successes as you go to help you fine-tune which stress relievers work best for you.
Talking to your manager about on-the-job stress may seem daunting. Only 40 percent of employees who suffer from stress have talked to their employer about it, according to AIS. Many feel that approaching their employer about stress will be seen as complaining or interpreted as an unwillingness to perform their job duties. Many also believe that admitting to a high level of stress will be perceived as weakness or could affect their chances for a future promotion. However, your company has a vested interest in a satisfied workforce. Happy, healthy employees reduce the cost associated with absenteeism, low productivity, and frequent turnover. So, speak up!
Seek Professional Help
If you find that you cannot manage your workplace stress on your own and it is interfering with your job satisfaction and enjoyment of life, it may be time to seek professional help. A psychologist or other mental health professional can help you pinpoint behaviors and situations that are keeping your stress levels high.
Take Control of Your Future
Always take the time for self-care and keep the lines of communication open with your managers and colleagues when you feel overwhelmed. If the thought of spending money on self-care stresses you even more, take advantage of company wellness programs when they are available: They offer lots of ways to de-stress and stay healthy. The future is in your hands.