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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 January 20, 2021

    How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

    How to Cope With the Stages of Grief and Heal After Loss

    The death of a loved one is, unfortunately, something most of us have experienced or will experience at some point in our lives, but grief and loss are not felt only when someone passes away. You may move through the stages of grief quickly or slowly, and you may even find yourself moving back to a stage you thought you had passed. People grieve differently, and there is no correct way to grieve in any situation.

    A close friend or family member moving away, a divorce or breakup, loss of a job, as well as a number of other life experiences can cause feelings of grief or loss. Coping with loss is one of the most stressful and difficult things we have to deal with in life, but it is an experience everyone can relate to.

    What Are the Stages of Grief?

    The five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are related to the common emotions we go through when we experience loss. This grief model was identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969[1].

    However, because everyone is different, there is no “standard” way to react to grief and loss.[2]

    Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeves and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try not to judge how a person experiences grief, as each person will experience it differently.

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    Stages of grief

      Stage 1: Denial

      The feeling of shock when you first find out about a loss can lead to thinking, “This isn’t real.” This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion and a defense mechanism for your mind.[3]

      Stage 2: Anger

      Feelings of frustration and helplessness take hold during this stage. Thoughts like “It’s not fair” can be common. Even being angry at your loved one who died for “leaving you behind” is natural. This anger can spill over into your close relationships, and you can find yourself getting angry at those around you for no apparent reason.

      Stage 3: Bargaining

      During this stage, you are constantly thinking about what you could have done to prevent the loss. Thoughts of “What if…” and “If only…” replay in the mind. You might also try to bargain with a higher power in hopes of reversing the loss.

      Stage 4: Depression

      This stage brings the deep sadness you feel as you realize the loss is irreversible. You think about how your life will be affected by the loss. Crying, loss of appetite, feelings of loneliness, and unusual sleeping patterns are all signs of depression.

      Stage 5: Acceptance

      You accept the loss, and although you’re still sad, you slowly start to move on with your life and settle in to your new reality.

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      The stages of grief don’t have to be in this order, and you might not experience all stages. There is also no set time period for grieving, and some people take longer to heal than others.

      How to Heal From Grief and Loss

      When you’re experiencing those heartbreaking feelings and the stages of grief, it’s hard to believe that you’ll eventually heal, but you really will. Here are some ways to help the healing process:

      1. Confront the Painful Emotions

      Try not to bottle up your emotions. Allow yourself to express how you feel. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.[4]

      If you’re not ready to get together with friends and family to talk about how you’re feeling, you can work with your emotions through mindful meditation, which can help create space for you to take a look at what you’re feeling and why.

      2. Talk About It

      When you’re ready and have entered the final stages of grief, talking to someone about the way you are feeling can be very helpful in starting the healing process. Often, people want to isolate themselves while grieving, but being around friends and family can help. Talking can also help you to confront your emotions if you have been unable to.

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      3. Keep up With Your Routine

      Loss can make you feel like your world has been turned upside down. As you move through the stages of grief, getting through your daily routine may feel more difficult, which can cause you to put self-care to the side. Keeping up with your routine can help bring back some normality and ensure you are showing yourself love and consideration.

      4. Take Care of Yourself

      When you are grieving and depressed, simple things like eating become an afterthought, and sleeping may become difficult. Taking care of yourself and your health will help with the healing process.

      While you may not do everything you were doing before your loss, try to do one act of self-care each day. It can be taking a long bath, going for a walk, making a nice meal, or even practicing a hobby once you feel ready. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; it just needs to be something that makes you feel good.

      5. Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

      Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions.[5] Try to postpone making any big decisions for a while or get guidance from close friends or family if you can’t put it off.

      Grief may also make you feel like making major changes to your life, such as quitting a job or ending a relationship. Try to remember that now is not the best time to make these changes, and hold off further consideration until you have moved through all of the stages of grief.

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      The Bottom Line

      It is important to heal after a loss so that you can get on with life. There is no set time period for grieving, but if you feel that your grief isn’t getting better, and you are unable to accept the loss, it might be time to seek advice from a mental health professional.

      In the meantime, accept that now is a difficult time, but that it will get better. Time will inevitably help and make the pain less powerful. One day, you will wake up and realize the pain is simply a small echo in the back of your mind and that you have successfully moved through each of the stages of grief. It’s time to get back to your life.

      More on Dealing With the Stages of Grief

      Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

      Reference

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