The biggest challenge in managing workplace stress, the kind of stress that most people deal with, is our tendency to simply accept it.
We tend to believe that stress is part of the job, a necessary evil, an unavoidable cost of having a career, that complaining about it is a weakness and doing something about it is simply a waste of time.
Luckily for you, most of those assumptions are actually wrong, and most organizations are beginning to realize that the more they focus on fixing stress amongst their employees, the better everyone performs.
It’s easy for stress to come and go, with us accepting it’s just part of our lives instead of something that needs addressing. Once we bring our awareness to these key stress components, we can start taking steps to manage it.
Recognize that mental health is a strength and not a weakness, that opening up about the topic, discussing it, even sharing your own struggles, is often the most valuable first step towards better mental health.
Don’t push it aside, or consign stress to “something you’ll focus on when things calm down.” Deal with it now, understand it, even embrace it, recognize the short and long-term damage stress can do, then conduct a simple risk assessment – are you happy with the risk/reward?
Understand the differences and relationships between stress, burnout, and depression. They can often be cross diagnosed, and one can often lead to another. The one thing all three have in common is emotional exhaustion, something that can be hard to recover from.
Get real, or at least realistic, about what’s expected from you and what you expect from yourself. Recognize your human limitations, come to terms with them, and work to that more realistic standard.
If it’s not already there, encourage the creation of a mental health culture in your workplace where it’s OK for everyone to talk about their issues and struggles without fear of it impacting their reputation, job security, career and promotion prospects, or image.
Study your enemy – yourself. Your mental health could be your toughest enemy, and especially allowing stress to come in and take root. Identify the things that cause you the most stress and develop a strategy to deal with them.
Focus on self-imposed stress, the stress you create for yourself either because of unrealistic expectations or high personal standards. Always remind yourself that if this is the career you want to be in, you’ll be in it for the long haul. So be practical.
Work harder for the right work/life balance. Even if you’re never truly off-the-clock, you can be away from it. Leaving the office early, or even on time, can be a simple way to deescalate the stress of the office.
Think about mindfulness, yoga, meditation, regular walks in fresh air, short pauses to switch off and consume half a dozen deep breaths – they can all release the hormones that will help you battle stress, burnout, and depression on your behalf.
Don’t assume burnout is just that. You might be suffering from clinical depression and not recognize it. In fact the symptoms are so similar, and especially the emotional exhaustion, many health professionals have difficulty telling the difference.
Resist – if there’s constant pressure to do more work, take on more tasks, learn new tools or technologies, work extra hours – work instead on ways to resist the constant pressure to agree. Know and appreciate your limits as a human, and let your bosses know too.
Try not to bring your work, the job, the industry, your noble crusade home with you. Your body and your brain chemistry both need an opportunity to reset. Not just for your wellbeing and that of your family, but to ensure you can do it all over again tomorrow.
Don’t forget your body. From a comfortable chair to a better diet to more exercise, your body and mind need each other but can also let each other down. Investing in good eating and exercise can be a better investment than yet another certification or promotion.
Take a deep breath, then take another, and another. Like most stress management, deep breaths are completely free, and the more deep ones you take, the quicker your stress will respond.
If you don’t like what you are, reinvent yourself. If you don’t like where you are, go someplace else. Either persuade your employers to let you work remotely more often, or look for less stressed and toxic workplaces.
Looking For More Tips And Ideas?
Check out “62 Stress Management Techniques, Strategies & Activities” from PositivePsychology.com