Managing stress in the workplace can be easier said than done. After all, the noise, demands, and time constraints in many work environments can be overwhelming – and the resulting physical and emotional stress can take a toll both on your attitude and your overall health.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental health is more than the absence of mental illness – it’s a state of well-being. Dealing with work-related stress will directly affect your state of mental health, and while it might seem difficult now, know that it gets easier once you have the right strategies in place. Here are some warning signs to watch out for, plus some effective ways to cope with stress at work.
Signs your stress may be harming your health
Everyone experiences stress a bit differently, and different people can express their discomfort in various ways. However, there are some classic signs that your stress level is reaching dangerous levels, including:
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
- Apathy and loss of interest in work
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Stomach problems
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of sex drive
- Substance abuse
Tips to cope with stress in the workplace
You might need to devote some time and energy to find a stress solution that suits your routine and your personality, but here are some good ideas to cope better when your job is challenging your ability to stay calm and balanced.
- Don’t overcommit yourself. Avoid scheduling meetings back-to-back, and if possible, set aside a day of the week that’s meeting-free. The break can help you collect your thoughts and regain your focus. If you’ve got too much on your plate, consider delegating tasks – many people are more than happy to help.
- Schedule regular breaks. Sitting at your desk all day can stifle interaction, variation, and creativity – virtues that can support your physical and mental well-being. Remind yourself to get up from your seat and step away from your work to recharge with a walk or a coffee. Even a short break can leave you feeling more focused, content, and productive.
- Get moving. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Physical exercise has shown to improve the chemical imbalances in your brain, specifically by producing endorphins – chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. They not only reduce stress, but also improve your ability to sleep.
- Sleep seven hours a night. Too much stress can make us anxious and deprive you of a good night’s sleep, which can lead to other illnesses, like depression. Just as children have a bedtime, adults should set a time to hit the hay – and stick to it every night!
- Break projects into smaller steps. Managing what appears to be a never-ending flow of work can get exhausting. If you have a large project or several large projects on the go, create a step-by-step plan or a work-back schedule to help you focus on one manageable step at a time.
- Practise meditation. Learning to live in the moment can mean living with less stress every day. Meditation can help to cultivate this mindset by clearing away the information that builds up daily, weighing on your mind. Allocate a few minutes every day to letting go of the clutter in your head. Check out these meditation tipsto help you get started.
- Laugh often. If you can’t find humour in your day, then you’re taking life too seriously. Sometimes you need to actively develop a lighthearted perspective, but it’s worth the effort. Laughter not only makes you feel good, it also releases a cocktail of happy chemicals (serotonin, endorphins, natural killer cells) that boost your immune response to fight off illnesses that can arise from stress.
Playing the long game
You can’t control everything in your work environment, but with the right education and preparation, you can control how you carry around your stress at work. By taking some time to craft healthy habits to combat anxiety now, you can start to enjoy the effects in a few short weeks – and hopefully continue to manage stress expertly for many years to come.