Your work is important, but that doesn’t mean it should stress you out.
Stress won’t help you meet your deadlines and other objectives—in fact, it will hamper your efforts in the short-term and lead to burnout in the long-term. Still, more than 80 percent of American workers say they are stressed due to their work, according to a 2013 Work Stress Survey study announced in April.
The workers surveyed said low pay and unreasonable workloads were the biggest stress-inducing aspects of their jobs. Annoying coworkers and the hassle of commuting ranked as the third and fourth biggest headaches. Other workplace tension-causers were fear of being fired, a lack of upward mobility, poor work/life balance and toiling in a job that isn’t related to a chosen or preferred career.
Learn to cope with the stress of your work life. Doing so will not only improve the quality of your work—it will improve the quality of your life. Here are six strategies:
- If your workload has grown beyond what was outlined in the job you accepted, meet with your manager to discuss the issue. Point out the duties you were hired to perform and the duties you have since taken on or offered to help with. If you can handle the workload, a promotion or raise may be appropriate. If your workload simply needs to be reduced or shifted to other team members, ask. If your work has truly been piling up through no fault of your own, a responsible, competent manager will recognize this and make concessions.
- Make a list of the things that create stress in your life. You’ll probably need to focus on things inside and outside of your work day, as it is all interconnected and it is difficult to leave one or the other completely behind when you’re feeling stressed out. Identify the problems you can easily fix and develop a plan to get them out of the way. You’ll eventually be able to tackle the larger problems with confidence and effectiveness.
- Keep an organized calendar (Google Calendar is a great one that you can access from anywhere). It will help you manage your responsibilities and avoid missing deadlines and appointments. Block off time for projects that require your full attention and make sure you won’t have any distractions during those times.
- Take plenty of breaks. It may seem counterintuitive to take breaks when the weight of multiple deadlines is bearing down on you. But even five minutes of downtime here and there will work wonders. In fact, one time-management tool called the pomodoro technique is based on a schedule of 25-minute work sessions followed by five-minute breaks. Don’t use your five-minute break to check Facebook. Get up and walk around. Step outside for some air if you can. Breaks should be physical as well as mental, so you can come back to your next task feeling refreshed.
- Make sure you’re getting enough rest and exercise. If you’re feeling overworked, the idea that you should take more time to rest and exercise might sound nuts. But it’s important. The mental clarity and sense of well-being that you’ll get from a good night’s rest and the energy you’ll get from being in better shape are well worth the investment of time.
- Make time for yourself. You probably feel like your work doesn’t leave you with much time for hobbies and other interests, but these things are important to keep your mind stimulated. Be careful about bringing work home. Over-scheduling yourself will rob you of your free time. Spend a little bit of time every day doing something you love to do and soon you’ll find your work less grueling.