Work can be a tremendous source of satisfaction in our lives. But it also delivers a fair amount of stress for most of us.
Did you know that three-quarters of Americans feel physical symptoms from the pressures they encounter at work? In conversations with the adults I see in my practice, I hear about a range of symptoms that crop up when stress reaches a particularly high level.
Many people tell me they suffer from body aches or headaches when things get tough on the job. Others have digestive problems or cravings for junk food. Many find it hard to think clearly during the day and get enough sleep at night.
It’s not hard to see how these patterns can lead to even bigger issues such as weight gain, heart trouble and even depression. This makes finding ways to manage job-related stress a priority for all of us.
WHAT TROUBLES US AT WORK
Studies point to a number of factors that can make our working lives difficult. You may suffer from work-related stress if you:
— Can’t control the volume of work you’re expected to handle, or have little say in the way things are done.
— Experience frequent conflict with co-workers, supervisors and others you interact with.
— Work long hours with few opportunities to take breaks.
— Have too few days off – including missed vacations and weekends.
— Receive little thanks or recognition for the contributions you make.
HEALTHY, POSITIVE ADJUSTMENTS TO WORK STRESS
Many of the challenges we face at work aren’t under our direct control. Things like a brutal daily commute or how a boss manages (or mismanages) people, are things that we cannot necessarily change. But there are ways we can respond that will protect our health and peace of mind. Here are some healthy attitudes and practices that can help you tame workplace stress.
- Watch out for short-term thinking. Will skipping lunch really help you meet that deadline – or will you feel too fatigued to work well? What about the high-sugar snacks that might give you a momentary boost, but cause you to crash later (and possibly gain weight in the long term)? You’ll perform better if you make it a daily habit to take good care of yourself.
- Don’t play the hero. Being the one who always volunteers to go the extra mile may seem noble, but it also leads to burnout. The responsible path is to politely but clearly state when you’ve reached your limit and can’t take on additional work. Be willing to brainstorm ways to get the job done, but realize it’s your job to signal others when you’ve reached your capacity.
- Cultivate trust in others. Many of us believe that no one else can do things as well as we do. But when we fail to delegate or we micro-manage others when we do entrust tasks to them, we’re asking for extra stress and ultimately, a bad case of burnout. If you have trouble letting go, try entrusting small tasks at first. Allow time for people to develop the skills they need to handle your requests. Notice the benefit when both of you succeed in working well together.
- Actively ask for help. Do you think others will see you in a negative light if you admit you can’t do it all? Changing this belief can make a quantum difference in the quality of your working life. In reality, most people are happy to lend a hand because they need one sometimes, too. As with delegating, start small: try asking for extra help now and then and see what an impact it makes for you.
- Vary your pace. When we’re under pressure, often the last thing on our minds is stepping away for a bit. The natural temptation is to press harder – but the truth is, our effectiveness declines when we’ve been at the same task too long. Try taking a short walk outside or moving to a new setting. Switch to tasks that use a different skill set for a while, then return to the action when you’re feeling refreshed.
- Feed your social life. Busy work schedules may prompt us to cancel plans with friends and family. But spending time with people who love us is the ultimate stress-buster. They give us moral support when we’re down – and since they’re not usually part of our work scene, they can also offer helpful perspective.
- Keep healthy routines. Just like socializing, these habits are often the first things to go when we’re busy at work. We stop exercising, reading for pleasure or keeping up with hobbies that help us unwind. Remember that when you feel you have the least time for relaxation is when you need it the most. Look for alternatives: if you can’t fit in your usual 2-hour basketball game with friends, maybe 30 minutes on a stationary bike will clear your head and blow off stress.
- Try new methods that can ease stress. Sometimes we need new techniques to deal with the daily pressures we face. In my practice, I have seen good results when people have tried yoga, meditation, deep breathing and journaling. Which one might be right for you? I’m happy to explore the possibilities with you and offer specific tips to help you get started.
FINDING A HEALTHY BALANCE IN WORK AND LIFE
As a therapist working with adults of all ages Oak Park, I am here to support your well-being. If you need help dealing with high levels of workplace stress, let’s talk. Call me at 708-990-3867 or click here to send me a confidential message.