Any job can come with some amount of stress, even one that you love doing. But if work stress follows you home and threatens to become a chronic problem, it’s time to do something about it.
In this post, we’ll show you how to reduce workplace stress using simple and effective strategies. With the help of our work checklist, you’ll be able to better manage work stress one step at a time.
But first, let’s fully understand what work stress is and how it manifests.
What Is Work Stress?
Work stress happens when your job asks too much of you. It can have many triggers including an excessive workload, lack of control over work decisions, tasks that don’t motivate you, or a difficult relationship with your supervisor. Often, there are more factors than one.
While pressure at work is often unavoidable, if it becomes too intense and difficult to manage, it may turn into work stress.
Workplace-related stress can be harmful both physically and emotionally. It may cling to you after you leave work, affecting your family life and leading to anxiety and depression.
Work stress symptoms can be wide-ranging. They can include:
- Difficulties focusing
- Low energy
- Short temper
- Poor sleep
- Stomach problems
- High blood pressure
- Change in eating habits with weight gain or weight loss
- Smoking more
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Low self-esteem
- Reduced libido
Work stress can be a contributing factor to heart disease and other serious conditions. It may also weaken your immune system, leading to frequent bouts of illness.
How to Reduce Work Stress
While you can’t prevent work stress, you can take steps to reduce it and better manage it. The following checklist for work stress could help.
Name the Factors That Cause Stress
What are the specific situations, people, or events that trigger work stress? Writing these factors down in a journal or typing it into a document can make the identification process easier.
When you have the time, review these factors. How did they make you feel, and how did you react to them? Go over your feelings and reactions.
Next, think of solutions that could help you prevent those triggers from generating stress again.
Being organized can make coping with work stress at least a little easier. If your workload is a major stress factor, planning your work week can help you tackle tasks better.
Create a to-do list if you don’t have one already. Prioritize tasks based on importance and dose your energy accordingly.
Whether you use a to-do app on your phone or write down a list, review and update it daily.
Set Boundaries Between Work and Personal Life
Periods when you don’t have to think about work are crucial to avoid the buildup of stress. They enable your mind to switch off from work and everything related to it.
Disconnecting from work is challenging in the digital age. All the more so if you work from home. But with a few simple rules, you can manage it.
You can disable work notifications in the evening. Check work emails only at specific hours. Use a different phone and computer for work so that once you put it aside, you signal your brain that the workday is over.
Exercising is one of the healthiest responses you can have to stress. All types of exercise can help with stress management. Try jogging, yoga, going to the gym, swimming, cycling, or any other form of exercise you feel drawn to.
Choose something you naturally enjoy and that you can integrate into your work schedule. That way, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Plan Activities You Enjoy
Similar to exercising, favorite activities can help you develop positive emotional responses to stress. Planning at least some of your favorite activities gives you something to look forward to after work. It will also remind you to do more of the things you enjoy.
Try building favorite activities into your daily life, whether it’s listening to music, going out for a walk, or watching a game. They will make it easier to release stress.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing exercises can help you quell stress and induce a state of relaxation. It works by filling your body with more oxygen, which makes blood pressure more stable and slows your heartbeat.
Here is a simple breathing exercise known as the 4-7-8 breathing technique you can try at home or office:
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Breathe in through your nose counting to 4.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Repeat for four breath cycles.
Other scientifically proven relaxation techniques you may want to try include mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.
Get Enough Sleep
Stress can cause sleep problems. But not getting enough sleep can also cause stress. The link between stress and sleep is reciprocal. Lack of sleep can even affect your eyesight.
If you are having difficulties sleeping, avoid using screens at night. Turn off notifications and put your phone aside.
Open the window to cool down your bedroom and ease yourself to sleep by reading a book or listening to calming music. You may also want to limit your caffeine intake.
Tip: We've dedicated an entire post to how to sleep better at night.
Talk to Your Supervisor About It
If you experience work stress, you won’t be as productive as you could be. An open conversation with your supervisor or the HR department can help you eliminate or better deal with the factors causing you stress.
Focus on the stressors and explain the situation without turning it into a list of complaints. Often, this kind of discussion can lead to positive changes.
Take Time Off from Work
Go on a vacation or trip. On free days, disconnect from work and do things you enjoy. Be careful to put away devices and other things that may trigger work-related thoughts.
Simply not working for a few days can give your body the quiet it needs to clear accumulated work stress. Even a weekend spent with friends or family can help give your mind a welcome break.
In the end, giving yourself time away from work is one of the best ways to let go of stress. Make sure to create work-free periods every day, and coping with the demands of your job should become less difficult.