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Last Updated on August 27, 2020

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

How to Deal With Stress at Work 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 job stress 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!”

The Job Is Too Easy

If the job doesn’t challenge you or inspire you to learn more, you can quickly lose motivation and get stressed.

Lack of Social Support

Maybe you feel pressured by coworkers or don’t feel like you’re part of a community at work.

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.”

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 micro-manage, leaving you 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 stress generator.

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 stressful situations as much as possible.

This 4-minute video shows just how stress can wreak havoc on your brain and your performance:

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…stop! 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 to check your emails and 30 minutes in the afternoon to do the same.

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[4]:

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 stressors 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.

Think for a few moments. 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 more in control of your destiny, 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.

Learn how to deal with stress at work by forming connections with colleagues.

    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 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 country 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 stress is that your healthy habits can take a backseat. This can’t happen if you really want to learn how to deal with stress at work! Maintaining and even improving your physical and mental health will keep your stress under control. Here are some ways to keep you physically fit:

    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 food 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. 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.

    Learn how to deal with stress at work 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 October 22, 2020

    2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

    2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

    Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

    Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

    Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

    Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

    Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

    By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

    The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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    1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

    Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

    Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

    Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

    When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

    The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

    Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

    To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

    Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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    We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

    It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

    After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

    Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

    Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

    To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

    Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

    Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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    When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

    Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

    We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

    When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

    Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

    2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

    If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

    The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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    To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

    With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

    So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

    • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
    • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
    • Say no to all else.
    • Say no again.
    • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
    • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
    • Meditate.
    • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
    • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
    • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
    • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
    • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
    • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

    Final Thoughts

    These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

    Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

    More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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