In a recent article we discussed ways that excessive workplace stress can compromise a workers’ health, both physically and emotionally. High workplace stress can be triggered by a work-related injury or illness, or caused by fear of being laid off; putting in additional overtime hours because of staff cutbacks; sexual harassment or workplace discrimination; and pressure from managers to work at optimum levels at all times. Often times workers find it impossible to address these issues on their own, and turn to a Workers Compensation Lawyer or Employment Attorney to for help.
Yet some forms of stress are less “institutionalized,” and therefore easier to manage on an individual level. Small changes in daily habits and activities can bring about substantial improvements in these kinds of workplace stress levels.
Lowering stress in the workplace can enhance both physical and emotional health, while also improving job performance and personal career satisfaction.
In our recent article on managing workplace stress, we discussed Tip # 1 (Recognizing signs of excessive job-related stress) and Tip # 2 (Taking care of yourself). Hare are some additional steps workers can take to lower their personal stress in the workplace:
Tip 3: Reduce job stress by prioritizing and organizing
When workplace stress threatens to overwhelm your job, take some basic steps to regain control over the situation.
- Balance your schedule. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. All work with no leisure or recovery time is a recipe for certain burnout. Seek a balance between work and family life, social activities and individual pursuits, daily responsibilities and personal downtime.
- Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling back-to-back activities or cramming too much into one day. We often underestimate how long certain tasks and commitments can take. If you find that you have too much on your plate, drop tasks that aren’t completely necessary to the bottom of the list – or eliminate them entirely!
- Try to leave earlier in the morning. Even 10-15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing to your desk and having time to ease into your day. Don’t increase your stress levels by running late.
- Plan regular breaks. Make sure to take brief breaks throughout the day to walk around, stretch, or clear your mind. Try to move away from your desk or work station for lunch. Stepping away – even for a short window – can relax and recharge you, making you more, not less, productive.
Task management tips for reducing job stress
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list of essential tasks, and tackle them in order of importance. Complete the high-priority items first. If you must complete something particularly unpleasant, get it over with early. The remainder of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into smaller pieces. If a big project seems overwhelming, create a step-by-step plan. Rather than attempting to tackled everything at once, focus on one manageable step at a time.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself. If other people can take care of the task, why not ask them? Let go of your desire to control or oversee every step. This will eliminate unnecessary stress in the process.
- Stay open to Compromising. When you ask a co-worker to contribute differently to a task, change a deadline, or alter their behavior at work, be willing to do so yourself. In many cases, if both parties bend a little, you’ll find a productive middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone involved.
Tip 4: Reduce job stress by breaking bad habits
As we become better at managing job stress and improving work relationships, we gain more control over our ability to think clearly and act appropriately. This allows us to break habits that add stress to our work lives – and can even change negative thought patterns concerning things that increase stress levels.
Identify self-defeating behaviors
Many of us make job stress worse through negative thoughts and habits. If you can reverse these self-defeating habits, you’ll find other sources of stress (such as manager-imposed stress) easier to handle.
- Resist perfectionism. No project, decision or scenario is ever ideal, so striving for perfection on every front will just add needless stress to your day. When you set unattainable goals for yourself or take on too much, you set yourself up for disappointment. Aim to do a good, solid job; no one can ask for more than that.
- Clean up your act. If you tend to run late, set your clocks a few minutes fast or simply give yourself extra time. If your desk is cluttered, file and throw away the mess; simply knowing where everything saves time and reduces stress. Make to-do lists and cross off items as you accomplish them. Plan your day and stick to the schedule — you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
- Reverse your negative thinking. If you see the downside of every situation, you’ll becomes drained in no time. Try to see positive aspects in your work, avoid co-workers with negative attitudes, and reward yourself for small accomplishments (even when no one else does!)
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Some things in our jobs and simply beyond our control— especially the behavior of others. Rather than fretting over them, focus on the things you can control, such as the manner in which you respond to problems.
Five Ways to Dispel Stress
- Take a few minutes away. When stress at work is building, give yourself a quick break and remove yourself from the stressful situation. Take a quick walk outside if possible, or spend a few minutes breathing deeply or stretching in another room. Physical activity or just finding a quiet place to “regroup” can quickly reduce stress.
- Talk with someone. In some situations, simply sharing your thoughts with someone who is both supportive and empathetic can be a great way to let off steam and diffuse your negative emotions.
- Connect with others at work. Developing friendships and relationships with co-workers can help protect you from the negative effects of stress. Remember to reciprocate by listening to them in turn, and offer support when they need it.
- Find humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is an effective – and enjoyable – way to diffuse stress in your job. Try to avoid taking things too seriously if a problem does not warrant it, and lighten the mood by sharing a joke or funny story.