Dealing with stress in the workplace

Like breathing, eating and sleeping, stress can sometimes feel like a common experience. Whether it’s a busy work schedule, financial difficulties, adverse life relationships or a combination of many other factors at work in your life, stress finds a way to intrude on our productive days and make its presence very known.

We know stress by its effects – first the quickened heart rate and the panic, then the familiar sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach. If you’re stressed, you’re also likely to experience any one of the side effects for which it is known, including headaches, trouble sleeping or eating, shortness of breath, tight muscles, even an upset stomach or a wide variety of other digestive issues. Many of our daily emotions can be tied directly back to the stress we experience during the course of a given day.

And at work, that stress can easily be amplified. Maybe we have a busy schedule, a tight deadline, an upcoming presentation or an expectant superior. Whatever the reason, stress can find you frequently at work unless you know how to deal with, and rid yourself of, those same negative emotions.

Looking for easy, effective ways to reduce stress while at work? We’ve outlined four of our favorite stress-relieving methods that you can put into practice, wherever you happen to be spending your work day.

But before we get to those proven stress-relieving tips, we have one suggestion: the first step toward eliminating your stress is recognizing what’s causing it. Maybe you feel stress when approaching or leaving a coworker’s office; maybe stress appears whenever you think about a particular project, deadline or expectation. The point is, if you can first identify the biggest causes of workplace stress in your life, you can use the suggestions below as effective healthy responses.

Recharge, and don’t feel bad about it.

Machines can work all day and all night without a break. Humans cannot. Anyone expecting their body and stamina to last throughout an entire workday without any amount of rest is setting themselves up for failure. Dealing with stress at work looks a lot like spending even 5 or 10 minutes for personal well-being. If it’s been a while, consider taking a bit of time away from your work, to focus on personal well-being.

Take a walk around the office (or outside of the office), strike up a non-work-related conversation, watch highlights from your favorite sports team, visit the vending machine for a snack, give a family member a phone call to say hello, listen to a song or two that always calms you down. You’ll find that even a few minutes of personal relaxation in the middle of a busy day can can help reset your mind, recharge your work ethic and put stress in its place.

Make organization a priority.

One major contributor to stress is disorganization. You’re likely busy enough at work without any confusion getting in the way. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a litany of checklists, time-tracking spreadsheets, to-do lists and project management tools, you can benefit from a few simple organization tips and tricks that can remove surprising levels of stress from your day.

Use a desk organizer.

You won’t believe how much stress (and time) you’ll save with something as simple as a desk organizer. Whether you collect and store pens and desk supplies in a single place, or you’re willing to supplement your desk with a standing file cabinet or other organizational furniture, you’ll be doing your future self a huge favor through stress-saving organization.

Eliminate the clutter.

If there’s an item on your desk that you likely won’t use today or this week, we suggest either removing that item from your desk, or relocating it to a place where it won’t take space away from vital desk items. This principle applies no matter where you’re working. If you’re a truck driver, make sure your cab is spotless. If you’re a doctor, keep your standing or mobile desk squeaky clean. If you’re a website developer, remove old files from your desktop with the same regularity at which you’d clean your physical workplace. If you’re willing to clean your workspace, stress often follows clutter out the door.

If you can, go digital.

If you’ve ever misplaced a physical paper or notebook at work, you know the stress that the search can cause. Worse still, your productivity can essentially reach a standstill until that paper or item is found.

This is an issue that can largely be solved if you’re willing to digitize your files. You’ll only need to scan your files and protect them accordingly. Sure, it might feel unnatural to rifle through a digital computer file instead of your traditional file cabinet, but you’ll be saving yourself time, energy and stress in the process. In addition, computer search functions can search through thousands of computer and online files in seconds, saving you all of the time you’d spend (and all the stress you’d experience) searching for those same files in a file cabinet or cluttered cabinet.

However you choose to organize your desk, the goal here is peace of mind. Even if you can spend a few minutes decluttering your workspace and cleaning your desk or office, you’ll find that a structured work area contributes directly to a structured, stress-free in-office experience.

Leave your perfectionism at the door.

Humans make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are small – we add numbers incorrectly or send emails to the wrong recipients. Sometimes those mistakes can be rather large – funds can be allocated incorrectly and miscommunications can result in lost time and revenue.

It’s important that in the office, we acknowledge the following fact: workplace mistakes are inevitable, and they do not reflect on your character. In other words, who you are and what you do are two entirely separate things. And though sometimes they may overlap, a mistake at work does not reflect on your identity. If we begin to identify ourselves by our mistakes, we’re opening the door for stress to replace our self-confidence. Especially in a fast-paced work environment, it’s important that we leave our perfectionism at the door, learn from our mistakes and keep stress from defining our work accomplishments.

Get the support you need.

At one time or another, we’ve all pretended we were invincible to prevent others from seeing our imperfections. When it comes to workplace stress, this is one of the worst possible responses. If you’re serious about reducing stress at work, you need to be serious about the possibility of getting help to deal with your stress.

Admitting you need help is not admitting you’re weak, it’s admitting you’re human. In fact, we consider you a stronger individual for admitting your own limitations. Ideally, your employer has put processes in place to help you deal with any stress, anxiety or other adverse effects of your time spent in the workspace.

Taking steps to manage stress at work

Coping with stress at work can be difficult at best, and downright crippling at worst. If your employer has not put processes into place to help you deal with stress, depression, or other emotions you might be feeling, ask them to consider an EAP – an employee assistance program. Employee assistance programs like ours are specifically designed to help employees like you deal with emotions and experiences that might be affecting your workplace performance.

Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP has been dedicated since its creation to a single goal: helping you improve productivity and quality of life by addressing anything that might be hindering it. No matter where those emotions come from, no matter where and when those experiences occurred, our employee assistance program helps you see and pursue the light at the end of the tunnel.

Managing stress at work is a daily grind. The above suggestions should help you take the edge off of your workplace stress, through simple, deliberate actions like taking time to recharge, organizing your desk, leaving perfectionism at the door and getting the help you need. There will be daily victories, there will be setbacks, and there will be frustration. But if you can begin to identify the causes of your workplace stressors, and put action plans in place to deal with them, you will see and enjoy undeniable progress.

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