While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance—and impact your physical and emotional health.
Your ability to deal with stress may mean the difference between success and failure in any kind of work, and can affect the health of your relationships outside the workplace.
What Causes Workplace Stress
Common causes of workplace stress are:
- Fear of being laid off
- Increased workload due to layoffs
- Difficult or demanding boss
- Difficult or demanding clients/customers
- Pressure to meet rising expectations
You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Regardless of your work demands, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress and improve your job satisfaction.
What You Can Do About Workplace Stress
- Initiate positive relationships. Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. You may not have a close buddy at work, but you can take steps to be more sociable with your coworkers. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smart phone or tablet, try engaging your colleagues in conversation. Simply sharing your thoughts and feelings with another person can help reduce stress.
- Get moving. Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. You don’t have to be a runner—try walking, dancing or swimming. For best results, get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days. When stress is mounting at work, try to take a quick break and move away from the stressful situation. Take a stroll outside the office if possible. Physical movement can help you regain your mental balance.
- Eat well. Your food choices can have a huge impact on how you feel during the workday. Eating small, frequent, healthy meals, for example, can help your body balance blood sugar, which keeps your energy and focus up and helps you avoid mood swings.
- Get enough sleep. Not only can stress and worry cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you're well-rested, it's much easier to keep your emotions balanced, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. Try to improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a regular sleep schedule and aiming for 8 hours a night.
- Plan regular breaks. Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take walks or chat with friendly coworkers. Also try to get away from your desk or workstation for lunch. It will help you relax and recharge, and you will return with increased productivity.
- Prioritize tasks. Tackle high-priority tasks first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Flip your negative thinking. Try to think positively about your work, avoid negative coworkers, and pat yourself on the back for small accomplishments, even if no one else does.
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things at work are beyond your control—particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing over them, focus on the things you can control, such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Finally, look for humor in the situation. Nothing relieves stress more than laughter. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to feel better in the workplace. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or funny story.