Is your workplace killing you? Chances are, if you are not managing stress properly, you can relate with this sentiment.

Stressed much?
Occupational stress (commonly referred to as workplace stress) occurs when there is a discrepancy between the demands and burdens placed by the workplace and an employee’s inability to meet them successfully.

Stress can be mental, emotional, or physiological and it can be caused by all kinds of factors and situations—work overload, toxic physical environment, difficult interpersonal relationships between co-workers or management, long working hours, lack of independence, unsupportive management styles, poor payscales and advancement opportunities, any kind of harrasment, and finally, lack of opportunity to grow as individuals and develop skills.

Stress is a widespread global phenomenon, if you will, and few U.S. workplaces are immune. According to workplacebullying.org, one-in-five Americans experience extreme stress at their jobs. So while there may not be a lot you can do to control how your workplace is managed, what you can do is take charge of your own personal well-being.

Workplace stress: 7 steps you can take to manage it

Recognize the signs and take note. Some common side effects of stress are anxiety, aggression, fatigue, exhaustion, depression, lack of concentration, memory issues, and chronic dissatisfaction. If you are experiencing these symptoms, don’t ignore them by thinking they will pass. Address them before they turn into serious health conditions. Keep a note of what kind of situations are stress triggers for you. Maintaining a log over a period of time will bring you insight into your overall well-being.

Take adult recess. How long has it been since you enjoyed your lunch break, taken weekends off without thinking about work, or gone on vacation? If your answer is long enough that you can’t remember, I suggest you start taking adult recess regularly. Take your 30-minute or hour long lunch time to go for a walk or sit in silence or any such activity that will help you disconnect and relax. Make sure you don’t use this time to run your personal errands either. I used to be a workaholic which meant that I would not take breaks and work continuously, trying to pack in as much as I could during a day. And then one day I realized—work will always be here, you don’t have to do it all today. That shift in attitude improved the quality of my life tremendously.

Create work-life balance. Your work is not your only priority, although with the long working hours that you put in, it may as well feel that way. Create a balance between various aspects of your life—personal relationships, leisure and recreation, health, financial, spiritual, and religious—all areas are equally important in order for you to create a well-balanced life. Examine your daily lifestyle, is it lop-sided favoring only one aspect? What can you do to make room for other, equally as important, things?

Prioritize. Organize your work responsibilities based on what is important first. Avoid the tendency to overplease everyone by taking on more than you can handle, set boundaries at work and learn to say “no.” This way, you can avoid burnout. Delegate as much as you can so you have time to focus on what is crucial. Avoid getting overwhelmed by breaking your projects and tasks into smaller manageable tasks. Manage your time well and avoid becoming ‘Mr. or Ms. do it all’.

Gain emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control one’s emotions and that of others. Although most of the time we may like to believe that we are in charge and well-balanced, the truth is we can get controlled by our emotions unless we learn how to manage them. When you are stressed out it further reduces your ability to handle your emotions, thereby impacting your ability to make decisions and listen effectively. You stay in a reactionary mode, overanalyzing everything and in the process create more unncessary tension and anxiety for yourself and for those around you.

Develop positive habits. Stop complaining. Complaining helps noone, including you. While it may help you vent, it doesn’t do much more than that; if you are really unhappy about something, take positive action instead. Ask yourself: how can I solve this problem? What can I do to resolve this situation? Avoid negative people that create unnecessary worry and anxiety for themselves, as well as for you. Practice smiling and laughing out loud more. Happy people attract happy, positive situations into their lives. Keep a clean heart holding no grudges, envy, anger, or ill-will towards anybody. Release and let go. Don’t allow every little thing to ruin your mood—it’s not worth it! Focus your time on learning how to improve communication, relationships, and self development.

Ask for help. There is no shame in seeking help if you don’t know or can’t handle something. Oftentimes, we look at it as a sign of being vulnerable and weak, but asking for help can actually be quite empowering. You can save a lot of time and personal burden and stress if you simply accept help. I’m going to tell you something you might not want to hear. You are not perfect. And, you do not know it all. And you know what? That’s okay.

Stress is a silent killer—figuratively and even literally. Take control of it before it overpowers you.

What are some other ways you can combat workplace stress?

Ruchira Agrawal

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