We’ve all felt stress from our jobs at some point or another. And for some of us (unfortunately), it’s a daily occurrence. Stress can come from a variety of sources, including conflict with others, not being challenged enough, or an uncomfortable desk chair or a depressing workspace. You can feel stress because you don’t have the right systems to stay organized or because you try to do way too many things at once.
We often need a reminder that we don’t have to simply accept the stress. In fact, it’s imperative that we don’t let it rule us. Stress can lead to sickness, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and serious diseases. And people often choose unhealthy ways to deal, which actually exacerbates the problem. The good news is that there are ways to cope that are healthy, productive, and even enjoyable.
It’s important to first identify the source of your stress. Once you know what’s causing the tension, you can address it directly, eliminate it, or use one (or all) of the strategies below for coping in a healthy way.
Develop a calm morning routine.
If your morning always starts in chaos, you’re bound to feel the effects of the chaos long after you start work. If you find yourself constantly rushed, get up a few minutes earlier. Prepare the night before by laying out your clothes, getting the coffee maker ready to brew, or mixing up an easy but healthy grab-and-go style breakfast like overnight oats. It’s amazing how these little things make the morning so much more smooth. If you don’t feel rushed, but you do feel stressed, then try getting up a few minutes earlier anyway, and spend that time developing a gratitude practice, journaling, stretching, or taking a quick walk around the block with some deep breaths.
Create a comfortable work environment.
If your chair is too hard or your desk is a total wreck, then make it better! Make your workspace as welcoming as you can—whether you have a desk area in an open workspace, a private office, or a home office. Keep things in your space that make you happy—a plant, photos of your family, a piece of art you like, etc. If noise is a problem, use a white noise machine or play soothing music through headphones, if possible.
Get clarity on expectations and keep communication open.
Miscommunication can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. When you expect one thing from someone, and they think that you expect something entirely different, it results in unnecessary strain. Uncertainty and ambiguity can lead us to waste time brooding instead of taking productive action. So be sure to keep communication channels wide open, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify information and expectations.
Steer clear of drama.
Workplace friendships can be great, and socializing with your colleagues can bring a sense of closeness and connection that can be beneficial to an organization. But when the connection is based on gossip and negativity, it can lead to an unhealthy mental state that adds to your stress levels. Avoid unnecessary conflict and drama.
Clear the clutter in your workspace (and your mind), and work on finding systems that can help you manage your time more effectively. Stop trying to multitask; your brain can’t actually split its focus between two focus-heavy tasks anyway. You end up task-switching instead, moving from one thing to the other quickly, which drains your brain’s resources.
Move your body.
Physical activity is proven to reduce stress (and so is nature), so get outside and go for a walk on your break. And yes, take those breaks! That will help reduce stress, too. Exercise and fresh air will give you a mood boost, and the shift in environment is great for snapping you out of a negative mental loop.
Engage in activities to support your mental wellbeing.
Your brain works very hard for you, and while we talk a lot about physical exercise and how good it is for the body, we tend to forget about exercises to promote mental health. Try some simple guided meditations or visualizations, sit in silence for five minutes, do some deep breathing, or engage in mindfulness exercises. You can practice these things without even leaving your desk and incorporate them seamlessly into the rest of your day.
End the workday well.
End your day by preparing for the next day so that you aren’t scrambling in the morning. Clean up your workspace, make a list of your to-dos for the next day, and give yourself boundaries so that you give your mind a break from work tasks and focus on other areas of your life that matter (i.e. your family, hobbies, personal health, etc.). Make sure you recharge by taking care of yourself, engaging in activities you enjoy, and getting good sleep so that you can return to work rested.
“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” –Dale Carnegie