Our jobs provide a lot of positives: income, pride, and mental stimulation. But that doesn’t mean work can’t get rough. Pressures, ranging from looming deadlines to infrastructure changes, can add up to long, stressful work weeks.
According to the American Psychological Association, job stress is a genuine health concern. Short term effects range from headaches to trouble sleeping. Over time, chronic stress contributes to anxiety, depression, and possibly more serious conditions, like heart disease.
Here are five stress management techniques you can use to lighten the mental load at work.
1. Shift your mindset
Negative situations are bound to arise throughout your career. The key to minimizing stress is in your reaction. In her book, SHIFT to Professional Paradise: 5 Steps to Less Stress, More Energy & Remarkable Results at Work, Vicki Hess recommends that you take a moment to breath and identify your negative emotions.
After you’ve realized your negative emotions, work on harnessing whatever your typical reactions may be, such as anger, worry, or sadness.
Once you’ve done that, find new options or a new way to look at the situation. Positive steps could be breaking up a large project into smaller parts, or considering how someone you admire would react. Even a small step in a positive direction is a good one.
2. Work on saying thank you
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 40% of people considered their job to be very or extremely stressful. By showing gratitude, you’ll pinpoint the positives in your workplace and, hopefully, brighten up your co-workers’ day.
Whether you’re thankful for the cappuccino machine or pleasantly surprised with your assistant’s work that day, make note of it and tell your co-worker how pleased you are. Reading through those positive moments at the end of each day will remind you that it isn’t all bad.
3. Talk to your supervisor
Assuming your manager isn’t the problem, keep the lines of communication open. Don’t just meet with your boss to pile on a list of complaints. Sit down and discuss a plan for dealing with any stressors. Your discussion could include personal goals to be more efficient, project clarifications, encouraging other employees to be supportive, or adding more meaningful responsibility.
Make sure that you schedule a follow-up meeting to ensure that things continue to move in a positive direction.
4. Take time to relax
Use meditation, deep breathing, or exercise as a way to relax during the day. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reported that regular exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Deep breathing has similar effects. According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), mindful breathing decreases your heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension. If you’re feeling anxious but are short on time, squeeze in a couple minutes of deep, mindful breathing. You’ll calm your body and be better prepared to deal with your job.
5. After work, turn it off
An important part of dealing with job stressors is learning to leave them at work. Establish a set boundary to avoid bringing conflict home. For you, this could mean not checking emails after you leave the office or not taking work-related calls on the weekends.
Although completely shutting out work during off-hours isn’t always possible, don’t feel like you need to be available 24/7. Just because your email is always working, doesn’t mean you need to be.