According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anyone who has ever held a job has felt work-related stress. In fact, in a recent APA survey, 65 percent of Americans said work was their top source of stress. This could be anything from an overwhelming workload or demanding boss to impossible deadlines and difficult co-workers. No matter the source of workplace stress, when it becomes chronic, it can be harmful to both your physical and emotional health.
Work-related stress is a serious issue. It contributes to headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, a short temper and difficulty concentrating. Long-term stress can result in anxiety, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and a weakened immune system. To make matters worse, people tend to deal with this stress in unhealthy ways — overeating, smoking or abusing drugs and alcohol.
You can’t always avoid this type of stress, but there are steps you can take to manage it.
Track your stressors. Keep a journal to identify which work situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. This can help you find patterns among your stressors and reactions to them.
Develop healthy habits. Exercise, such as yoga, is a great stress-buster, but so are other activities. Take time for hobbies. Read a book. See a movie. Go to a concert. Go to a ballgame. And don’t forget to get enough good-quality sleep — avoid caffeine, the computer and the TV prior to bedtime.
Establish boundaries. Make it a rule to not check email from home or answer the phone during dinner. Creating clear boundaries between your work and home life can reduce the potential for conflict and the stress that goes with it.
Recharge. Give yourself time to replenish by switching off from work. On weekends, turn off your phone and leave your laptop closed so you can focus on non-work activities. Take a day off to relax and unwind. Go on vacation to get away from it all. Time away from work helps you feel reinvigorated and ready to take on the world.
Learn to relax. Meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness work to melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking or enjoying a meal. Be in the moment. This skill will not only help you handle work-related stress, but can be applied to any aspect of your life.
Talk to your manager. Healthy employees are productive employees, so your manager has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes well-being. Work with your manager to develop an effective plan to better handle work situations that create stress on the job.