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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

How to Deal With Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max

How to Deal With Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max

Work stress is a modern epidemic. More than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress. This is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year in lost work hours and medical bills[1]. Therefore, it’s important that we start to learn how to deal with stress at work.

Clearly, if you’re suffering from work stress, you’re far from alone. However, this stress isn’t inevitable.

In this article, I’m going to suggest the most suitable ways to cope with stressful situations related to job demands so you can become a happy and productive worker again.

Where Work Stress Comes From

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. The causes of stress include:

Too Much Work

You feel overwhelmed by your work and find yourself saying: “There are not enough hours in the day!” You may be taking on too many projects or staying to work overtime each time your boss asks.

The Job Is Too Easy

If the job doesn’t challenge you with problem solving or inspire you to learn more, you can quickly lose motivation and get stressed, as you feel you’re not growing in the position.

Lack of Social Support

Maybe you feel pressured by coworkers or don’t feel like you’re part of a community at work. Stress increases when we lack positive relationships, even at our job.

Little Praise, Lots of Criticism

A lousy manager uses constant criticism to try to motivate you, but all you really want to hear is “good job.” Even constructive criticism would be a step up.

Very Competitive Work Culture

You may feel like you’re constantly having to compete against your coworkers to get ahead. This can be exhausting and very stressful.

Lack of Control

Your boss or manager likes to micromanage, leaving you with little room to make your own decisions and utilize creativity.

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Aiming for Perfection

While it’s good to do your best, being a perfectionist can be a powerful work stress generator. You may feel like your work is never good enough, which can cause the anxiety you feel while waiting for someone to criticize it.

Low Salary

If you work hard but receive slim financial rewards, you may start to feel unappreciated, frustrated, and stressed.

The Negative Effects of Stress

Chronic stress is bad news for your mental and physical health. These are some health symptoms of stress[2]:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Increased appetite
  • Eye strain
  • Backaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

As one study points out, “chronic life stress has been consistently associated with poorer cognitive function, accelerated cognitive decline, and increased incidence of dementia”[3]. This underlines the importance of avoiding work stress as much as possible[4].

Stress Management at Work

    How to Deal With Stress at Work

    You don’t need to be a victim of work stress. Here’s how to manage stress in the workplace:

    1. Set Aside Some Time for Planning

    If work has become too much for you, and you’re constantly falling behind, it’s time to take a step back. Instead of trying and failing to catch up, you’d be much better off spending some time thinking about your goals and how to prioritize your tasks to improve time management.

    Learn how to set clear goals with this step-by-step guide.

    For instance, if your initial goal is just to get on top of your work (probably for the first time in months), then take 10 minutes to think clearly and deeply about how you can achieve this. Once your goal and tasks are clear in your mind, you’ll be ready for the second step.

    2. Align Your Tasks With Your Goal

    Just knowing your goal and associated tasks is not enough if you want to learn how to deal with stress at work. Many people reach this stage but still fall behind with their work and fail to achieve their goals.

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    The secret is to understand which of your tasks should be high priority, and which ones can be done when you have spare time.

    For example, checking your inbox every 20 minutes may seem to be a productive task for you, but in reality it acts as a constant distraction and a source of stress. Instead, you’d be better off setting aside 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to check your emails.

    By doing this, you’ll free up the bulk of your day for tasks that can help you reach your goal. These tasks are likely to be things like writing a business proposal, creating a PowerPoint presentation, or finishing an important project.

    These tips on how to prioritize will help you align your tasks with your goals and work 10X more efficiently.

    3. Remove, Change, or Accept the Stressors

    How can you tackle specific work stressors? I recommend the following method that WellCast introduced[5]:

    Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. At the top, write remove in the first column, change in the second, and accept in the third.

    Next, think of the sources of work stress that are getting to you the most. Perhaps it’s your paycheck; it might be way smaller than you’d like or feel that you deserve. Don’t worry, this is your chance to break free from the stress surrounding your low pay.

    Which would you prefer?

    • To remove yourself from the company
    • To try to change your salary by asking for a pay rise
    • To accept that your salary is okay for you

    You may be surprised at what thoughts come into your mind. Don’t reject them, but allow yourself time to be clear on how you’d like to proceed.

    If the status quo feels good to you, then write “paycheck” in the accept column. If you decide you want to increase your salary but stay in the same company, write “paycheck” in the change column. And finally, if you decide the time is right to seek a new opportunity at a different organization, then write “paycheck” in the remove column.

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    By being decisive in this way, you’ll immediately feel a sense of control, and your stress levels will begin to decrease. All that remains is to set yourself a clear goal.

    Of course, if you have multiple work stressors, then use your remove, change, or accept sheet to work through all of them to reduce stress. It will be time VERY well spent.

    4. Create Positive Relationships at Work

    One key when learning how to deal with stress at work is being able to accept help outside of friends and family. Not only does it alleviate negative circumstances by creating a buffer between daily tasks and their negative connection, but it will provide a sense of support and relief in your personal life.

     

    Make an effort to create friendships with your colleagues. Go to the after-work happy hour, or just ask a colleague out for coffee at lunchtime. Not only will you have someone to confide in, but you will start to associate positive feelings to work.

    Forming a healthy relationship with your manager or supervisor is also a good way to alleviate stress. Positive, two-way conversations about where you stand in your job, being honest about how you feel, and working together to make a plan of action in terms of improved work conditions and expectations are paramount.

    This will lead to opening up and receiving the necessary resources you need to support or help you.

    5. Take Time for Yourself

    Anyone can get overwhelmed when stress occurs at work, and this can spill into other areas of your life. This is why it’s important to clock out mentally from your job and focus on stress management from time to time.

    Take time off to relax and unwind in order to regain your energy and come back to work invigorated. Make sure you actually do something you enjoy, like spending time with your kids or partner, or visit that city you’ve always wanted to explore.

    If taking time off work isn’t possible in the midst of your stress, take scheduled breaks throughout your day. Sit quietly somewhere, or do some stretches to get your blood flowing.

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    6. Take Mindful Action Towards Your Health

    The irony of work stress is that your healthy habits can take a backseat, which can increase levels of stress. Maintaining and even improving your physical and mental health will keep your stress under control.

    Eat Healthy Foods

    Make sure your diet is full of foods that provide your body with sufficient nutrients. Eat more fruits and green vegetables, whole foods, omega-3 rich fish, and seeds such as flax, chia, and hemp. These types of food ensure your body is working optimally to cope with its stress mechanisms.

    Avoid Unhealthy Foods

    This is obvious, but it’s these kinds of foods you reach for in times of stress and negativity. High-fat foods, such as cheese and red meat, cause sluggishness and tiredness. Foods high in refined sugars, like cookies, chocolate bars, and bread, can be convenient snacks, but they cause you to crash and burn.

    Exercise Regularly

    Endorphins are great for counteracting stress, and you can get more of them through exercise. Exercise creates a distraction and helps you get your thoughts back together in an orderly way. Start exercising today to improve your physical and emotional health!

    Get Enough Sleep

    Make getting 8 hours sleep a priority to help diminish work stress. When we’re stressed it can sometimes feel hard to get to sleep, but sleep deprivation only exaggerates our current stress.

    Final Thoughts

    Everyone encounters work stress. It’s a natural and normal human reaction. The difference between letting the stress overcome you and coping with it is getting a head start by creating a positive environment and lifestyle.

    Learning how to deal with work stress is both an inside and outside job. Focusing on improving your health will create a positive mind that’s able to react better. Forming positive relationships with certain people around you will give you emotional support.

    Beat stress with the right mindset!

    More Tips on Dealing With Stress

    Featured photo credit: whoislimos via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

    How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

    You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

    The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

    The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

    What Happens When You’re Not Present?

    We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

    The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

    The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

    On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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    These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

    As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

    To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

    How Do We Come Back to the Present?

    Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

    To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

    Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

    For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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    This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

    It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

    How to Clear Your Mind

    Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

    1. Take a Walk

    Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

    Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

    Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

    2. Box Breathing

    As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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    In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

    This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

    3. Add Meditation

    how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

    On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

    4. Write Your Thoughts

    Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

    Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

    Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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    Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

    In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

    Final Thoughts

    With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

    It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

    In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

    More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

    Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

    Reference

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