How To Deal With Stress At Work In Healthy Ways
Many working persons may wake feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. However, as deadlines, last-minute projects, and conflicts with colleagues arise, they might begin to feel tense, exhausted, or worn down.
Stress at work can affect your mental and physical health. Recognizing stress and using strategies such as deep breathing, time management, and online therapy can reduce stress and positively impact your well-being.
This guide highlights healthy options for managing and reducing stress at work. We also explore what stress is, how it can impact you, and how to recognize it.
Recognizing Stress At Work
If you experience stress at work, you're not alone. According to a Forbes report, the average business person manages between 30 and 100 projects simultaneously and gets interrupted about seven times an hour. In addition, the risk of major corporate restructuring can create more stress regarding job permanency.
Additionally, the Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) measures how the general public perceives stress. And it found that most Americans cite stress at work as a significant issue.
Identifying the causes of your stress at work is usually the first step in finding management techniques that work for you. And depending on how stressed you are, these strategies might help improve your mental and physical health.
Stress can be categorized into three types: short-term (acute), long-term (chronic), and traumatic stress. Long-term stress is the most common type caused by work-life balance challenges, and it’s likely what you’re experiencing if your stress stems from work.
In contrast, causes of short-term stress usually include things like interviewing for a job, being stuck in traffic, or buying a home. And people who experience a violent encounter or natural disaster may experience traumatic stress.
Impact Of Stress
Research suggests that ongoing or chronic stress can impact most health issues. The most common side effects include:
Increased blood pressure
Some may use unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as tobacco, alcohol, or overeating) that can contribute to these health concerns. These habits can potentially raise your blood pressure higher and increase the risk of depression or anxiety.
Each person has a distinct threshold for stress and benefits from different stress management techniques. For example, some may find lower stress levels beneficial because they add the necessary pressure to complete a project. Others work best with no stress at all. Regardless, continuous stress that produces physical and mental side effects is something almost everyone should avoid.
Identifying The Causes Of Stress
If you recognize stress at work is impacting you, it's likely time to identify the causes and take proactive steps to address them. And if you feel overwhelmed or struggle to pinpoint the causes, you're not alone – many people find it challenging to identify what’s causing their stress.
Journaling about your emotions might help you understand patterns and reduce your stress levels. Consider recording what happens around the moments you notice stress to start. For example, you may experience significant stress following phone calls with certain people or before meetings.
If this doesn't work, speaking with a therapist might. You can choose between in-person and online therapy, both of which are effective at helping people with various mental health concerns. A licensed therapist may be able to help pinpoint the factors causing stress and find healthy, effective coping mechanisms that work for you.
Tips For Stress Management At Work
You can take many simple yet powerful actions to help manage stress. As you explore these strategies, be aware that stress often arises when you feel overwhelmed and that it may help to consider what you can and cannot control before proceeding. For example, while you cannot control someone else's actions, you can control how you respond to others.
Evidence-based relaxation techniques like deep breathing can help you reduce feelings of stress. So the next time you face a stressor, try relaxing your body and exhaling until your lungs are empty. Then, slowly inhale through your nose for four counts. Pause, for four counts, and slowly exhale for four counts.
Repeat this process three or four times before continuing with your day.
Managing your time is another well-researched strategy that may help reduce stress. You might start by setting aside time to handle the most common stressors during your workdays. For example, instead of responding immediately to requests from coworkers when you see a pop-up notification, try setting aside time when you start work and after lunch to address all new messages and emails.
Or, for work tasks, consider prioritizing the projects or actions that impact your workload the most. Alternatively, you might pick three important tasks to finish each day before addressing smaller, less-pressing items on your to-do list.
Another helpful step is to schedule breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch, or do deep breathing. Then, set alarms to make it easier to follow through with your planned breaks.
Improve Your Physical Health
Stress can impact your physical health, but your physical health can also affect your stress. Getting enough sleep and taking care of your body might help you feel more energized and less stressed at work.
For example, about one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep each day, which may contribute to heightened stress and health risks such as stroke or heart disease. Consider creating a sleep schedule that allows you to consistently sleep for at least seven a day in a dark, quiet space.
Staying hydrated can also help control your moods, as can eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising at least three times per week. For example, exercise reduces stress hormones, while eating too much sugar can increase stress and anxiety.
You may experience more stress and frustration when interacting with some colleagues compared to others. When this happens, it might help to pause before responding to help you communicate more thoughtfully and less emotionally. During your pause, you can consider how to express your thoughts clearly, kindly, and respectfully in response.
Protect Your Off-Time
Professional notifications can make it difficult to focus on your personal life when you're not working. So, if you find yourself checking emails, helping with work issues, or taking calls when you're off the clock, consider snoozing your notifications after hours or when you're on a break. This can help allow your brain space away from the responsibilities and stress of work for a healthier work-life balance.
Speak With A Professional
Research shows that therapy can be a powerful way to reduce stress. For example, one study found that engaging in online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) significantly improved stress-related symptoms.
Evidence-based techniques to reduce stress, such as deep breathing, time management, exercise, getting enough sleep, and setting healthy boundaries, could help decrease stress at work.
However, if you're struggling to manage your stress using these methods or don't have the energy to try them alone, consider If you have tried the strategies discussed above and you're still struggling with stress at work, you may benefit from connecting with a licensed therapist through BetterHelp. We'll use your preferences and needs to match you with an experienced professional who you can reach out to anytime and schedule full sessions in timeslots that work for you.
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