Workplace stress is a common problem. Any job can have stressful elements – even if you love what you do. When you think about the question, “What is stress?” many people think of things like deadlines, traffic, over-commitment, having to deal with people they don’t like, and the most popular of them – not having enough time. Most of us think of stress as something that happens to us, but in reality, stress is really our response to all of these outside factors.
According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, more than one third of American workers experience chronic work stress (and we’re guessing that figure is even higher here in NYC). All this worrying at work can have serious consequences for our quality of life – not only at work – but everywhere else as well.
So how do we regain our sanity and take back our lives?
First: Track Your Stressors
Try keeping a journal, or even just jot down a few notes for a week or two when you start to get stressed out. Identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
Find Humor In Everyday Work Situations
If you look at your work situation from a negative viewpoint all the time, you might lose your mind. Instead of complaining about your job 24/7, learn to laugh about certain situations with your other coworkers or friends. “Sometimes the best remedy is trading stories with a close friend [outside of the office] and finding humor and comfort in knowing you’re not alone,” said workplace legal expert and former prosecutor Robin Bond in an interview with Monster.
Don’t Bring Work Issues Home With You
While venting about stressful situations and negative emotions can sometimes make you feel better, it actually could be doing more harm. According to Wall Street Journal, research shows that constantly talking about negative work situations at home can make the problems worse.
Don’t Take Things Personally
It can be really hard not to take anything personally, especially when it has to do with your work. According to Fast Company, psychologist Paul White says, “One of the things humans are really bad at is misattributing the reasons for others’ behaviors.” Instead of focusing on what others are doing, just continue to work on yourself.
Take Time to Recharge
To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish ourselves and return to our normal, pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences.
Don’t let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. Take a bath, read a book, go to a yoga class, take your dog for a walk – just make time to do activities you actually enjoy! When you’re not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your phone, shutting your laptop, and focusing your attention on non-work activities for a while.
Focus On Self Improvement
Instead of shutting down and losing motivation, try to remember that your work environment doesn’t define who you are as a worker. According to Forbes, if you’re working in a negative or overwhelming environment, focus on improving yourself so you can take those new skills to your possible new future job.
De-Stress Yourself: Mind and Body
Mind: Stress begins in our minds via a thought or belief. Thus, an important key to neutralizing stress is to fuel our minds with more positive, happy, gratitude-filled thoughts in order to trigger our stress responses less often. Meditate regularly, take time everyday to think of at least one thing you’re grateful for, and learn to say “no” because being overbooked, overworked, and overcommitted will stress you out.
Body: Since stress is a physical and hormonal chain reaction, the first place to start is using your body to interrupt the response. The foundation for living a stress-free, physically energized life lies in what we eat, how (and how often) we move, and how much we sleep.
And lastly, if your workplace isn’t inspiring you anymore, you might want to look elsewhere. “Physically removing yourself and changing your environment for a brief time can have the effect of a ‘reset’ on your day. You need to get away and take the space,” says psychologist Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC.