Feeling stress at work isn’t always a bad thing. A little bit of stress can push you to keep up with deadlines and make regular accomplishments. But chronic, unwavering stress? Well, that’s an ingredient for workplace burnout!
Luckily, there are things you can do to manage your stress levels and prevent them from getting that bad. And, in this post, I’m going to show you how.
I’ll start by sharing a few workplace stress statistics so that you can see just how normal it is. Then, we’ll look at a few of the most common causes of stress at work followed by tips to manage that stress in the short and long term.
Let’s jump right in!
Is Stress At Work Normal?
Stress at work isn’t just normal, it’s pretty common. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2020 “Stress in America” report, 64% of working adults viewed their job as a significant source of stress.
Similarly, the American Institute of Stress estimates that 1 million workers are absent from work every day due to stress. And, consequently, the World Health Organization estimates work-related stress costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year!
Common Causes Of Stress At Work
If you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone. But there are a variety of reasons you can feel stressed at work. Let’s look now at a few of the most common.
You think you’re at risk of losing your job
It’s hard to feel calm when you feel you might lose any sense of security. Whether there’s been a recent round of layoffs or you’ve just received a performance improvement plan from your boss, remaining calm in this situation is never easy.
You fear you can’t meet your boss’s expectations
Not knowing if you can meet your key performance metrics because they’re confusing or conflicting with other commitments is an awful feeling. Feeling like you can’t meet them because of imposter syndrome or a genuine lack of the right skills is even worse.
You don’t have control over when and how often you work overtime
Do you feel like you’re always working overtime? Like there’s no time for you to take a break? Or that you’re frequently bombarded by urgent texts and emails from your team during your time off? This may seem harmless once or twice, but it builds up over time and is a key ingredient to burnout.
You lack support from your co-workers
You likely spend around 40+ hours of your week at work. But it can feel even longer than that and stressful if you don’t feel any sense of support or community with your co-workers. And if you happen to be in a toxic work environment, that level of daily stress can be even worse.
You’re not being paid what you’re worth
If your salary is too low for what you’re worth, stress is inevitable. Not only can it cause financial struggle it can also lead to you feeling resentment toward your boss or the company. That’s why it’s important to negotiate your salary before accepting a job offer and ask for a promotion or raise when appropriate. It’s not just about money. It’s about avoiding unnecessary stress and resentment down the line!
You feel you’re wasting your time and talent
No one wants to work a dead-end job. You know, the kind where there’s no room for growth or opportunities to use or improve skills. If you’re in this position, stress and frustration are bound to make you hate your job and wonder if it’s time to finally change careers.
10 Tips To Manage Stress At Work
More often than not, the stress you feel at work isn’t going to magically disappear. You have to decide to do something about it! To help you out, here are 10 ways to relieve stress at work.
Tip #1: Ask for support
You may feel you need to do it all by yourself, but you don’t! Sometimes getting a bit of help on a demanding project from a colleague can help you stay on track and take overwhelming tasks off your to-do list. Asking for help at work is also a great way to build camaraderie with your team by showing vulnerability, working together on tasks, and demonstrating that you value others’ areas of expertise.
Tip #2: Break down your tasks
If you always have a lot of big, time-consuming tasks on your plate, it will be easy to get overwhelmed eventually. Prevent that from happening by breaking those tasks down by time and size so that you can chip away at them. For example, you could use the Pomodoro Technique to turn a stressful task that might typically take 4 hours into a series of smaller tasks that you complete in segments of 25 minutes throughout the day.
Tip #3: Develop a hobby before and after work
You’re not a machine. But if all you do is wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat, you might start to feel like one. And in that scenario, it’s only a matter of time until you crack. Luckily, dedicating some personal time to hobbies can help cultivate balance. For example, you might practice a sport, read, write, draw, meditate, work on puzzles, train your pet, or learn a new language. How do these things help? They can boost your creativity and give you a sense of progress in the morning before you need to tackle the workday and in the evening when you need to wind down.
Tip #4: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
Without enough sleep, it will be nearly impossible to reduce stress at work. Sleep-deprived workers have been found to exhibit impaired thinking, frequent errors, emotional exhaustion, and increased irritability. For adults, the CDC recommends getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night and practicing sleep hygiene for better sleep if getting that many hours seems difficult.
Tip #5: Take regular breaks and time off
Just because you’re scheduled to work 40+ hours a week doesn’t mean you should be working every single minute of it! In fact, if you do, you’re putting yourself at risk of burnout and only producing subpar work. So, take regular breaks and time off — even if you’re working from home. These breaks are needed to make work sustainable over the long-term.
Tip #6: Don’t overcommit yourself
You have to admit: saying yes to everything that comes your way is stressful. There’s just not enough time! So, you need to be honest, with yourself and others, about your limits. How much can you realistically get done in a day? When you’ve reached that limit, it’s time to start saying no. This may be challenging if you’re used to always saying yes. But the truth is that learning to say no is one of the best things you can do for your career and mental health.
Tip #7: Get organized
There’s a reason organization is a key skill of highly effective leaders! Because it’s nearly impossible to reduce stress at work if your desk is a mess, your notes are scattered, and you’re not even sure which task should be your top priority. But carving out some time at the beginning and end of the day to organize things like emails, to-do-lists, and your weekly schedule can help. The time you spend will help you regain control of your day and allow you to plan how you’ll stay on top of everything.
Tip #8: Set boundaries on when you work
For many of us, working from home during the pandemic has made it difficult to draw the line between our professional and personal lives. But you need to make this separation clear if you’re feeling stressed. Start by setting times to start and finish work each day. Then, commit to them! Don’t work outside of those hours. This not only works to reduce stress. It also helps to keep you focused and productive during the day so that your work doesn’t bleed into your nights and weekends too often.
Tip #9: Let go of perfectionism
Your work rarely needs to be 100% flawless to be effective. But that doesn’t mean your brain can’t trick you into thinking anything less than perfect is a sign of failure. To avoid falling into this trap, do what many high-achievers do: start with imperfect work. Your first draft of a report, email, or presentation won’t always be amazing — it doesn't need to be. You can always make improvements once you have a draft. And revising and improving is a lot less stressful than trying to produce perfect work on the first try.
Tip #10: Evaluate why you’re staying at this job
Sometimes, one of the best ways to relieve stress at work is to remember why you’re there. Perhaps your current job is a stepping stone to something greater, a way to keep financial stress at bay, or a temporary job while you figure out what you really want from life. Taking time to think about these things can help you reframe the thoughts causing you stress, allow you to refocus on the bigger picture, and determine whether it’s actually time to find a new job.
Feeling stressed at work is normal. But, to prevent chronic stress from turning into burnout, you need to be proactive in learning how to handle stress at work. Use one or more of the tips I’ve shared here to regain your composure and motivation.
And, if you find that your first step to beating stress is to start looking for a new job, check out my guide on how you can land a job without applying online!