Everybody encounters some form of stress daily, especially in the workplace. While low-to- moderate stress is normal and relatively unharmful, excessive stress can interfere with productivity and performance, impact health and have a negative effect on relationships.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress. In doing so, you’ll also likely improve your job satisfaction and bolster your well-being in and out of the workplace. It all starts with recognition. Becoming aware of your stress then incorporating these five tips for eliminating stress can change the way you feel every day on the job.
Identify Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
Stress isn’t always bad, in fact, it can act as fuel to motivate you through your day. A little bit of stress can help you stay energized, keep your focus and overcome daily obstacles and challenges.
Stress keeps you alert and effective during important meetings or presentations. It can also keep you on time, when an impending deadline is approaching. It becomes unhealthy when elevated levels of stress become the norm and regularly drain your energy.
If you often feel exhausted at the end of the day, your stress levels may be elevated. According to a recent Helpguide.org article, when stress exceeds your ability to cope, it stops being helpful and starts causing damage to your mind and body - as well as to your job satisfaction. If stress on the job is interfering with your work performance, health, or personal life, it’s time to take action.
Prioritize Your Physical Well Being
Sleep is so much more powerful than we realize and we often take it for granted. Think back to the last time you had a very productive day and accomplished a lot. Chances are you likely had a good night’s sleep the night before. The converse is also true. Think about the last time you were unproductive and unmotivated. Did sleep play a role? Chances are, a lack of solid sleep negatively impacted your day.
Cortisol is your brain’s main stress related hormone. Keeping cortisol levels in check are key to getting a good night’s sleep. Optimally, you want high cortisol levels upon waking in the morning to help power you through your day. As the day goes on, the levels reduce to their lowest level just before bed. That the idea. However, bad eating habits can have a negative impact on cortisol production.
Avoiding sugars and carbohydrates shortly before bed can positively impact cortisol production. Replacing carb-based snacks with protein-based ones will stop the brain from releasing cortisol in the middle of the night, affecting sleep patterns and making the brain race. You can still have your salty snack, just replace those pretzels with some almonds and see what happens.
Any form of exercise will also help stimulate positive mental activity. In a recent article by David DiSalvo for Forbes, he states, “Just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting.” Walking gives you time to think, its own form of a meditative state, while providing positive physical benefits at the same time.
Analyze Time Management
Find balance in your life. If you are constantly working, or thinking about work, you are not spending the time needed to relax. If you want to be good while you’re “on” the clock, you have to make time for being “off” of it.
No one should be expected to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you feel as if those are your expectations, it’s time to revisit whether or not you’re in a healthy work environment. Give everything you have while you’re on the clock, but when you’re off the clock, stay off of it and give you attention to your family, friends and most importantly, yourself.
Be sure to take regular breaks to reset your mind and body. The body doesn’t like to be in one position too long, and the mind is quite similar. After awhile, fatigue sets in and simple tasks become more difficult. Simply walking away, clearing your mind, and going back to what you were working on a few minutes later will give you a fresh perspective and the ability to see things more clearly.
Don’t try to be all things to all people. And don’t promise beyond what you can deliver. It’s admirable to want to do the work of an army, but it’s also impractical. Why overpromise and underdeliver when doing the opposite can have a positive impact on your image. Promise only what you know you can handle and then use instances of over-delivering to enhance your image in the workplace.
When you feel your work stress is getting out of hand, it’s vital to communicate that with your boss and coworkers to find a solution. Letting someone know you feel overworked is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of intelligence.
Realizing that elevated stress levels can reduce your effectiveness speaks to a high-level of self-awareness while communicating those concerns shows that you take ownership of your workspace and want it to be as successful as possible.
Ask for help. No one is a master of everything, but most people specialize in something. If you struggle with certain tasks, align yourself with someone who is better in those areas and, in return, help them in areas where you excel.
Understand that nothing can change if no one knows there is a problem. Confidently communicating your issues is the first step needed to fix a problem.
Seek Satisfaction and Meaning in Your Work
Unemployment is at record lows. Jobs are out there and money can be made virtually anywhere. So why do a job that doesn’t make you happy? Do something that appeals to you and makes you feel good about the time you’ve invested doing it.
The longer you feel bored or unmotivated at work, the more your stress levels rise. Changing your attitude toward your job can help you to gain a sense of purpose. Find some good in what you do, even if it’s something small. As you find one thing, it will be easier to identify the next.
Before long, you’ll begin to realize that your work may be more meaningful than you originally realized. And if you don’t come to that realization, then you may discover that it’s time for a new job. Either way, you’ve made a valuable discovery.
The “stress as fuel” concept can be looked at both figuratively and literally. Picture filling up your car’s gas tank at two separate gas stations. The first location is a popular gas station, known for using high-quality gas. Filling the tank with gas from this station should help your car run effectively and efficiently.
Now picture a decrepit gas station at the end of a rarely used dusty road off the beaten path that doesn’t get much traffic. The brand of gas is unfamiliar, and chances are, that gas has been sitting in the holding tank for a long time. There’s clearly a difference between the two fuels and their respective impacts on your car. One fuel may make your car purr while the other may cause it to stall. Fuel is only as good as its quality and stress is no different.
Make sure that the majority of your stress is the good kind and that it is serving a positive purpose in your life. If it’s not, take action to find ways to lower your stress levels so you can be happier, energized and more productive.