10 tips to stop stressing
Most everyone feels stress at one time or another. There are family demands, bills to pay, uncertainties about the future and countless other things.
If you have a job, you may deal with stress in your workplace. You may face excessive demands, coworker conflicts, customer confrontations.
Your body is built to deal with a certain amount of stress. Think of the fight or flight response. It prepares your body for stress by boosting blood flow and adrenaline.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our jobs, fighting or running is usually not an option.
Every person and every job has different stressors. However, we each have unique capacities for dealing with stress. Some people thrive on the adrenaline rush of high expectations, tight deadlines and unclear direction. Others may be overwhelmed in the same situation. Neither is right or wrong – each of us is just wired differently.
The key for you is to understand what stressors you have and how they affect you. Then work to find ways to manage your stress, either through steps you take yourself or through professional help.
What are warning signs of excessive stress?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says job stress could contribute to:
- Frequent headaches
- Upset stomach
- Trouble sleeping
- Relationship problems
- Job dissatisfaction
- Feeling angry or being short tempered.
How stressors may affect health
If you have long-term work stress that you don’t effectively manage, the NIH has found it can lead to:
- Heart/cardiovascular disease
- Back pain and/or muscle tension of pain
- Weight gain or loss
- Work-related injuries
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Reduced immunity
What can you do about stress?
There are a number of steps you can take every day (or more often) to manage stress that’s affecting your health. Review the list and take advantage of the ones that fit your situation and work for you.
- Track your stressors — For a week or two, write down what stresses you and how you responded. This journal can help you find patterns and better plan for how to better cope.
- Get organized — A to-do list can help you prioritize work and allows you to check off tasks as they’re completed. Your journal of stressors can help you organize yourself to avoid some stressors.
- Set reasonable goals — Don’t accept more work than you can reasonably do. Work with your boss and coworkers to set expectations that are realistic. Before you meet, track what you accomplish and the time it takes. When you have the conversation with your team, share the information about accomplishments and the timeline.
- Manage technology — Set time limits on the smart phone and work email. Turn off devices during meals and at a set time each evening.
- Take a break — Just a few minutes away from stressors helps. Take a quick walk or have a healthy snack.
- Take time off — Take your vacation time. One survey found only 47 percent of workers take all the vacation time they’re entitled to. Even a long weekend away can refresh you and give you energy to get back to work. You can come back and be more productive.
- Make good use of your time off — Don’t wait until the weekend to do things you enjoy. Make time for fitness activities, a hobby, good book or movie. Learning relaxation techniques such as mindfulness helps a lot of people.
- Talk to your supervisor — Employees who are healthy (physically and mentally) tend to be more productive, so your boss has good reasons to create a workplace that promotes good health. When you visit with your boss, the conversation shouldn’t be about complaints. It should be a discussion about creating an effective plan for eliminating or managing the stressors you’ve identified. If you’re unclear about what exactly your job is, write a job description before your conversation with your supervisor. This will help you get a better sense of what you should focus on. Share your thoughts with your boss. Make sure you and your supervisor are on the same page.
- Dangerous or uncomfortable working conditions? Speak up — Work with your boss or a group of other employees to address worker health issues. If this doesn’t work, you can report unsafe working conditions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- Need more guidance? Talk with a counselor — Find out if your company provides an employee assistance program (EAP). A trained counselor can help you address work stress.If your company doesn’t offer an EAP, see if your health insurance provides coverage for counseling. Or search online for community organizations that may offer mental health counseling.
Workplace stress can negatively affect your mental health. Be proactive about caring for your mental health. It’s just as important as your physical health!
Gregory D. Schramka is a licensed psychologist and Director of Behavioral Health Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, WI. His special interests include the application of empirically-validated treatment approaches to problems of depression, anxiety, and anger-related difficulties.
About the Author
Gregory D. Schramka, PsyD is a licensed psychologist and Director of Behavioral Health Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, WI. His special interests include the application of empirically-validated treatment approaches to problems of depression, anxiety, and anger-related difficulties.