6 Tips to Manage Workplace Stress and Anxiety

Work Stress is a problem that most of us have, and the things that are stressing us out are often out of our control. Like, buying a Himalayan salt lamp is probably not going to change the fact that you’re running up against a deadline, or find someone to cover your shift when you have a family emergency. But by stepping back and thinking carefully, we can recognize the things that are within our control.

Research has indicated that the percentage of people around the world who are stressed at work is high—and it’s only getting higher. According to a survey of more than 10,000 full-time employees, ages 18-79, more than half of employees find themselves stressed and anxious during at least 60 percent of the workweek.

Work stress has significant health consequences that range from relatively benign (like getting more colds and Headaches) to potentially serious (such as heart disease, Panic Attacks, and metabolic syndrome).

While stress at work is common, wherever you are: working from home or going to the office. Finding a low-stress job is hard and can’t be done in the nearest future. A more realistic approach is to adopt effective coping strategies to reduce stress at your current job.

So here are 6 work stress relief tactics to help you take back the reins–even if it’s just inch by inch.

#1 Breath Control

Chances are that some of these tactics won’t apply to your particular situation, but taking slow, intentional breaths is something that everyone can do. If focusing on your breath feels too difficult on its own, try pairing it with a count to ten, or with naming 6 things in the room that you can see, touch, hear, or smell. Run a finger up your pinky as you inhale, and back down as you exhale.

The goal is to calm the fight-or-flight response that is super helpful when you’re being attacked by a grizzly bear, but less helpful when facing your email inbox or giving a presentation. Recognizing this can help put you in a headspace that is more suited for the tasks at hand.

#2 Take A Quick Break

If you have some time to spare away from your workspace, try taking a quick break. If the weather is nice and you haven’t seen the outdoors in a while, try taking a walk around the block. This can help you gain some space from your thoughts in order to gain perspective.

The restroom can also live up to its name as a place to take a break. If you’ve been sweating or working in a stuffy area all day, try washing your face with some cool water. When we reached out for suggestions, one person even recommended taking this time to brush your teeth.

If you’ve got time for a coffee break, try sitting away from your workspace with your beverage for the amount of time it takes you to drink a cup.

#3 Make a List

If you’ve got a lot on your plate and you don’t know where to start, step 1 might be making a list! Even if you feel like there’s just one big task, try breaking it down into actionable parts. Being able to cross something off a list helps give you a visualization of your progress. It also helps to be a storage space for your thoughts.

Instead of trying to remember all of the tasks you have to accomplish in the future, you can write them down and choose which ones to focus on. Sometimes that means completing tasks on your list by priority. Other times, it might mean crossing out a few easier things in order to work up to a more difficult one.

If you’re just plain old stuck on a challenging task, switching to a different project can sometimes help bump your brain into refocusing on the task instead of ruminating on how stressful something feels.

Time limits can also be an asset to your productivity. That can mean allotting yourself 30 minutes for one task before diving into another. Or you can use the Pomodoro method: alternating between intervals of work and rest. Just be careful not to set yourself up for limits you can’t achieve, or you may actually cause yourself more stress.

#4 Socialize

When facing a problem, asking another person’s opinion on it can often give you the key to solving it. Everyone has a slightly different way of viewing the world, so keep your ears open for solutions you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

This can look like giving someone you trust a call on the phone, or it can look like setting up a meeting with your supervisor. Your employers have already put time into hiring and training you, so it’s in their best interest to help get you the tools you need to complete your job.

Before meeting with your supervisor, give some thought to your situation and come prepared with some specific points to discuss. You won’t always be able to make changes this way, but by politely and professionally bringing your concerns to your supervisor, they’ll at least have your concerns on their radar.

If they’re a good supervisor, they’ll do their best to help you out. If human interaction isn’t your thing, and your workplace allows pets, take some time to lavish attention on an animal you have
their owner’s permission to interact with. It’s good for you, and them, so you’re multitasking!

#5 Exercise

Exercise is clinically proven to reduce stress. But exercising doesn’t necessarily mean building a hardcore workout into your work routine. For the majority of us, just walking around the block or biking to work can make a huge difference. Or psych your co-workers out with a wall-sit stare-down.

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging to give you a nice endorphin kick to the old noggin’, try out a class like yoga or join a sport to start out or finish your workday.

If you’ve got extra time at lunch, try going on a walk or a run. (It’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a while, or if you have a concern about your health before starting a new exercise routine)

Consider building small fitness goals into your workweek. Being able to accomplish something for yourself, independent from your work can help remind you that you are more than what you do for an income.

This brings us to our final tactic…

#6 The Big Picture

Remember that you are a multi-faceted human being and that your work at the job you do is only one facet. It may be an important facet, but putting all of your self-worth-eggs in one career basket isn’t setting yourself up to succeed. And it isn’t an accurate portrayal of the complex organism that is you.

When we reached out for stress-relief strategies, one response we got was summarized with a Buddhist proverb:

“If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.”

Even the most successful people you can think of have made mistakes or felt like they bit off more than they could chew. It’s part of being human.

So take a step back from your zoomed-in position, be kind to yourself, evaluate your options, and take incremental steps towards where you’d like to be.

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