While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health negatively, and your ability to deal with it, can mean the difference between success or failure.
Long-term exposure to work-related stressors can affect mental health. Research links burnout with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In some cases, this sets the stage for serious mental health problems. Indeed, one study shows younger people who routinely face heavy workloads and extreme time pressure on the job are more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
High levels of stress at work can affect physical health too. For example, repeated release of the stress hormone cortisol can disturb the immune system, and raise the likelihood of developing auto-immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic stress can also affect health by interfering with healthy behaviors, such as exercise, balanced eating, and sleep.
Work stress can also harm companies or organizations. Burnout reduces job productivity as stated earlier and it results in absenteeism. It can also lead to conflict between co-workers, causing stress to spread within a workplace.
How then can you cope with work stress?
1. Recognize warning signs of excessive stress at work:
When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn. This can make you less productive, less effective and make the work seem less rewarding. If you ignore the warning signs of work stress (Feeling anxious, irritable or depressed, being apathetic, having problems sleeping, fatigue, trouble concentrating, muscle tension or headaches, stomach problems, social withdrawal, using alcohol or drugs to cope, etc.) they can lead to bigger problems. Beyond interfering with job performance and satisfaction, chronic or intense stress can also lead to physical and emotional health problems.
2. Reduce job stress by taking care of yourself:
When your own needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress. The better you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed. Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a total lifestyle overhaul. Even small things can lift your mood, increase your energy, and make you feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat. Take things one step at a time, and as you make more positive lifestyle choices, you’ll soon notice a reduction in your stress levels, both at home and at work.
Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever—even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing. Aerobic exercises—activities that raise your heart rate and makes you sweat is an effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. For maximum stress relief, try to get at least 30 minutes of heart-pounding activity on most days.
4. Make food choices that keep you going
Low blood sugar can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic. Healthy eating can help you get through stressful work days. By eating small but frequent meals, you can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keep your energy up, stay focused, and avoid mood swings.
5. Adequate 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 emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. You can try to improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a sleep schedule and aiming for 8 hours a night.
6. Reduce job stress by prioritizing and organizing:
When job and workplace stress threatens to overwhelm you, there are simple steps you can take to regain control over yourself and the situation. Here are some suggestions for reducing job stress by prioritizing and organizing your responsibilities:
Create a balanced schedule: Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.
Don’t over-commit yourself: Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly 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 add to your stress levels by running late.
Plan regular breaks: Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind. Also try to get away from your desk or work station for lunch. Stepping away from work to briefly relax and recharge will help you be more, not less, productive.
7. Resist perfectionism:
No project, situation, or decision is ever perfect, so trying to attain perfection on everything will simply add unnecessary stress to your day. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself or try to do too much, you’re setting yourself up to fall short. Aim to do your best, no one can ask for more than that.
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