How to Reduce Stress at Work

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Although it’s most commonly associated with adverse events such as a traffic accident, serious illness, or divorce, your work-life can also be a major source of stress.

Work-related stress is a common issue. According to the American Psychological Association, over 65 percent of Americans cited work as a top source of stress in their lives. However, only about 37 percent of those surveyed in this research responded that they were managing their work stress appropriately.

Symptoms of Work-Related Stress

While stress is typically visualized as someone feeling down after a long day at work, it can manifest in many physical or psychological ways. Some common symptoms of work-related stress include:

  • Consistent fatigue
  • Difficulties sleeping or insomnia
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Feelings of depression
  • Mood swings
  • Lowered ability to concentrate
  • Disinterest in personal life
  • Drop in work performance

What Causes Stress at Work?

Work-related stress can be caused by several different factors stemming from undesirable circumstances. Common factors include:

  • Excessive workload or long hours
  • Lack of job security
  • Little to no opportunities for growth
  • Unchallenging work or work that isn’t engaging
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or management
  • Working under dangerous conditions
  • Lack of support on projects
  • No control over decisions
  • Unclear demands or expectations
  • Low salary or lack of benefits

Taking Charge of Stress

Although many work-related stressors may be out of your hands, you have control over how you address and respond to them. Here are a few tips that may help.

  • Keep track of your stressors. Consider keeping a journal or notebook of your work-related stressors. Write down how you felt when put into the stressful situation(s) and how you responded. This may help you identify patterns and effective ways to overcome your stressors in the future.
  • Develop healthy responses to stress. Instead of indulging in comfort food at the end of a long day at work, make healthy food choices. Exercise is another great way to combat stress. Go for a run or walk when things get to be too much. Try to maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
  • Spend time with friends and family. When trying to work through stressful situations, it’s important to have a good support system behind you. Your friends and family are a perfect place to start. Lean on them for mental and emotional support.
  • Unplug from your electronic devices. Set limits with your employer about your availability after working hours. If you do not have to be on-call, turn off your phone. Try to limit the number of times you look at work-related emails. Use your free time to do something fun and enjoyable with your friends or family.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. Meditation and mindfulness are great activities to help you combat stress. Take ten minutes before starting your day in the morning to think deeply about the day ahead., Practice mindfulness in eating or walking to be able to apply it to work situations.
  • Get professional help. If you find stress significantly affecting your work or personal life, consider seeking out a therapist. There are those with the skills and training needed to help you overcome stress and establish healthy life choices to limit stress in the future.

Speaking to Your Boss

If you are suffering from high levels of stress at work, communication with the right people can help you overcome it. Depending on the relationship you have with your manager, it may be a good idea to sit down with him or her to discuss it.

This is a good opportunity to express what you are experiencing as they may be able to help limit or eliminate stressors in your work-life. If you decide to have this conversation, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Schedule a meeting. This is not a conversation that should be forced or impromptu during the workday. Set aside a specified amount of time to speak about this important topic with your manager.
  • Be prepared. Know what you are going to say beforehand. Speak truthfully about what is causing your stress. If you have any solutions in mind on how to eliminate stressors, now is the time to share them.
  • Don’t be afraid. There’s no shame in admitting that you are stressed out. You are not alone in feeling this effect in your work-life.
  • Set your limits. If you are overwhelmed because of a daunting task or lack of support, express this to your manager. Set realistic expectations of what you can accomplish in the future with the resources you have available.
  • Ask for time off. If you have PTO available, consider using that time to recharge mentally and emotionally. Time away from your work environment and its stressors can have a powerful positive effect.

When dealing with work-related stress, one of the most crucial things to remember is that you are not alone. Several thousand working Americans are going through the same thing that you are. The important thing is to acknowledge the stress you are feeling to yourself and to tackle it in an effective, healthy way.


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