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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

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

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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

    What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life The Careful Art of Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively How the Flow State Helps You Stay Productive and Concentrate

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    1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

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    Published on October 15, 2021

    Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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    Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

    When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

    After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

    Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

    1. Stress Hormone Overload

    Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

    When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

    The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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    You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

    2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

    Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

    Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

    Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

    3. Negative Mindset

    Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

    Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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    Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

    4. Digestive Issues

    It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

    The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

    GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

    You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

    5. Depression

    Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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    Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

    Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

    Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

    6. Breathing Problems

    Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

    This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

    End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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    There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

    7. Sleep Issues

    Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

    Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

    One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

    You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

    Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

    Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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    More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

    Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

    Reference

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