We all suffer from stress at work from time-to-time, but for some people this can become very disabling, and start to affect how they feel about themselves and their career. Given that we spend a lot of time in the office or performing work functions, it’s important to make sure that what you’re doing isn’t making you really unhappy, at least not for a prolonged period of time. Stress at work can affect life at home as well, and snowball into something more serious if not recognised and addressed. I’m sharing seven powerful techniques that I use with my clients to help you manage and reduce your stress levels.
1. Make sure what you do is an authentic expression of self. If you’re doing something you really love, you will feel confident about it. Doing a job that isn’t really you, but pays well will make you unhappy in the long run, and can lead to stress and burnout. If you’re in a job because you thought it’s what you should do, but would much rather be doing something else, this will take its toll. Consider what’s really important to you, and do your best to find a job and a career that allows you to fulfil those aspirations. It’s more doable than you might think.
2. Identify and clearly delineate boundaries with regards to work, and make sure you respect them. If you do, it’s easier to ask others to. Feeling stressed at work can be a result of doing too much, and then doing it badly. If you set rules around working hours, checking of emails after hours, and what you are prepared to do above and beyond your defined role, then you’ll feel more in control and be able to perform better as a result.
3. Get physically fit (warning: this one’s a biggie). Being physically fit means being mentally fit, and I really do believe the two are mutually inclusive. Start exercising, either with a trainer, partner or on your own if you’re sufficiently self-motivated, and set aside a minimum of two sessions per week to exercise. Try and walk where possible, avoid escalators and lifts, and avoid sitting at your desk for more than 45 minutes without getting up and walking around a bit. (Tip: have a small tumbler of water on your desk so that you have to get up and refill the glass every so often)
4. Have a social life and friends who challenge you. This helps maintain perspective. Friends can challenge your thinking about situations at work, and can perhaps raise a flag when they see you getting stressed or your confidence dipping. A good friend can help you understand what you can do to improve your situation, and support you through difficult times.
5. Eat well – the connection between food and mood is very powerful. Food and drink can make a profound difference to how you feel. Make sure you’re eating regular meals, have some healthy snacks at your desk to maintain consistent blood sugar levels, and avoid sugar, caffeine and excess alcohol. Above all, eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, and drink plenty of water.
6. Beware of paralysis by analysis! Don’t overthink. A lot of stress comes from legitimately stressful situations, but a lot of it also comes from ourselves and how we think about things. Overthinking can be a dangerous thing, so try and deal with something once and then put it aside. Talking to a friend or partner can be really helpful in not overthinking a situation. Always try and get an outside perspective where you can.
7. Set rules for your smart phone. Especially at weekends and outside of working hours. We now live in a 24/7 culture, where we are accessible via email from almost every part of the world. There are very few places where you are not connected. It’s up to you to manage that. Turn your phone off after 8pm, and let your colleagues know that you have a policy regarding phone use after hours. This sets the right level of expectation. Email can dominate our working day so having policies around email is also very effective at minimising stress. Take control of your day by deciding what your workload will be, as opposed to being dictated by emails.