Work-Related Stress: Do Something About It Now
We live in a stressful world and for most of us, much of the stress and anxiety comes from our work environment where we spend the better part of day. The worst thing about work-related stress and anxiety is that we may not be able to easily walk away from it. As such, we have to come up with some coping mechanisms in order to generally reduce anxiety levels at work.
Below are some tips that can help you to stay happier at work.
1. Pick Yourself up Quickly
Nasty colleagues, bosses, clients or difficult work tasks—we all have them. Some of us experience it on a daily basis, some more fortunate ones, less so.
You may have said the wrong things during an important meeting, messed up during a presentation, offended someone (intentionally or unintentionally), overlook the obvious, embarrassed yourself, made a stupid mistake, missed a deadline, did something at the wrong time wrong place—the lists goes on.
But we are, after all humans, it’s in our genes to screw up. We also have no real control of how others behave towards us. Therefore, instead of channeling your energy beating yourself up whenever you mess up or harp on a negative experience with people at work, focus your energy to pick yourself up quickly so you can get back in pace with your work.
Anxiety builds up when we are unable to let go of unpleasant moments in our lives and it really doesn’t do us ANY good being upset with the past—so move on.
2. Look Forward to Work
Many of us are not in our dream jobs, and may never be in one. However, that does not mean that we cannot make the best of the job that we are currently in.
It’s not to say that we shouldn’t strive to find our dream job, but rather, we should live in the present and to find happiness and fulfillment at THIS current moment.
If we habitually have thoughts like “What I would do if I am not stuck in this office?”, “What I would do when I can finally stop working?”, “Why am I trapped in this job?” —then we will truly become miserable beings. Waking up for work every day will become a chore and you will feel like you can only find joy and fulfillment on your days off.
If you keep drilling into your head how much you despite working or your current position, you create anxiety because you build up your misery and feel like you have no control of your life.
Therefore, it is important to try finding positivity in any aspect of your work and make yourself look forward to your work.
You should always find peace and meaning to your work. Ask yourself questions like 'Why am I doing this?', 'What do I want to achieve?'. There are many reasons for doing the job you're doing - It could be because you are seeking a less stressful job for better health or more personal time, or it could be a job that you have to go through to work towards your dream job, or it could be the money, the convenience or flexibility that the job provides. Whatever the reason, be honest with yourself, acknowledge the reason, find peace and purpose to the work you do.
Do you think work-related stress is affecting your personal life?
3. Compartmentalize Your Life Both Physically and Digitally
To effectively manage our overall stress level, we need to reduce the interference of work-related stress to our personal lives. This would mean that we need to learn to compartmentalize our lives, both physically as well as digitally.
Physical compartmentalization is simply not allowing work to physically disrupt or get mixed with our personal space and time. Some methods include limiting only work at the workplace (not at home), not bringing any work-related documents/items home and mixing it with personal items (which will remind you of work), not answering any work calls/emails during vacation/downtime.
Digital compartmentalization is a little more challenging and also increasingly important. The idea of digitally separating our work and personal life is to minimize exposure to things that would remind us of work or make us work. Some ideas include:
What to compartmentalize?
If your workplace uses Outlook, then instead of using Outlook for your personal email, use Gmail or Yahoo mail.
You can store your documents in different storage providers. For personal use, you can opt for Dropbox, while for work documents, you can use Google Drive/Documents.
You can opt to use a different OS from your work to minimize that feeling of work when you are doing your personal stuff (e.g. Windows OS for work, Mac for home). If you have to use the same OS, you can set different themes at work and for home (e.g. a serious company logo background for work and a picture of your dog for home).
Using different web browers for work and personal use allows you to neatly store your webpage bookmarks and search histories so there is no mix up.
Having proper rest from work-related stress can help you better tackle the issues at work.
4. Stop Anticipating That Bad Things Will Happen
There are many things at work that we don’t look forward to do. Late night calls, meeting with clients, presentations, overtime, deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines.
Often we find ourselves caught in our imaginations of the worst case scenarios or psyche ourselves into thinking how anxious we will feel prior to these ‘unpleasant’ work expectations.
We tire ourselves out with anxiety and negative thoughts even before a busy day begins. We anticipate how stressful the day will be, how little sleep we are going to get, how a late work night is going to tire us out for several days and make it a dreadful week ahead. Just thinking about our busy days and work expectations can make us tired and anxious.
Don’t let a negative mind control you. Plan your work properly, do the required preparation work, do your best and then come what may.
5. Be More Efficient
The longer we spend more time at work, the more work-related stress we feel. Some quick tips on increasing efficiency include:
- Maximizing your mornings: Try to clear as much work as possible while you go about your mornings. For example, answer simple emails and categorize your priorities for the day while you are commuting to work or waiting in line for your breakfast order. Get to work slightly earlier than others to clear emails and get some work done before distractions come in (e.g. meetings, colleagues asking questions).
- Improve your communication: Improving your communication skills can help get things done more efficiently. If it is more effective to make a call instead of emailing, then pick up the phone (you can always follow up with an email afters). If you want to get your emails answered quicker, you can also try sending out emails early in the morning before your colleagues come in, so that your email is on the top of their inbox.
- Improve efficiency of meetings: To keep meetings short yet productive, make sure that the agenda of the meeting is clear to everyone prior to the meeting so that everyone is better prepared. There should also be a meeting moderator (usually it is the meeting organizer) to ensure that the topics discussed/covered in the meeting stays relevant. If possible, try to avoid organizing meetings right after lunch, or close to the end of the day (when everyone is tired or sleepy). Having meetings at alternative venues besides the office (e.g. cafe) may also help to energize the meeting by providing a more refreshing environment.
- Don't waste time: Some people may be wasting a lot of time at work without even realizing. For example, it is good to socialize with your colleagues at work. But don't forget that the longer your lunch hour, the more coffee breaks you have, the less time you have for work - you will have to make up for it eventually.
6. Be Nice
As the saying goes “Treat others as how you want to be treated”. If you are nice to others, smile more, forgive easily—most of the time, people will also be more receptive, nicer and more forgiving to you as well. People are also likely to do more favors for you (which is really important at work) if they like you.
We will experience less work-related stress when our work environment is more pleasant and when we are able to get more support from our colleagues.
7. The World Is Not Perfect
You are not perfect, your colleagues are not perfect, your client is not perfect, your boss is not perfect, your company is not perfect. If you can accept this simple fact, you can remove a lot of anxiety and stress in your life.
8. Brighten up Your Work Area
We spend a lot of effort decorating our homes so that we have a comfortable place to go back to. However, you do know that you spend a huge part of your day at the office too. So why not spend a little effort to make your work environment a little more welcoming and comfortable for yourself.
Of course, the office is not exactly your personal space so you can’t re-color that dull office wall color, or change the office furniture. But you can definitely add small personal touches to it, like placing photos of your family and your favorite holiday, putting fresh flowers, add colorful objects on your table—basically anything that will make you happy and brighten up your mood.
A cheerful and more inviting work area can help to decrease feelings of anxiety by keeping you more comfortable and happy.