If you told me you don’t feel stress in the workplace, I wouldn’t believe you.
I might ask, “Oh, do you work from home? Is that why you don’t feel stress ‘in the workplace?’” “Are you a professional puppy cuddler?” Or maybe, “Are you happily unemployed?”
The thing is, even if you enjoy your job, it is totally normal to experience stress. Stress is a regular human emotion, just like joy. So, if you laugh at work, you probably feel stress at work too. Studies show that most Americans report experiencing stress at work, and many experience extreme stress. Ongoing chronic stress can be disastrous for your health, which makes stress management an important part of any office environment. And that’s the key; office workers need stress management techniques that actually fit their office environment. Not every workplace is going to dedicate space for a meditation room, and not every office is in a location where you can just step outside and take a walk.
With that in mind, the following stress management techniques are effective no matter where you work. Plus, they are broken down into specific strategies for dealing with certain levels of stress.
When You Are Experiencing a Little Stress at Work
This set of stress management techniques is for the times when you have an increased workload with less time to get it done, and your project plan isn’t going right, leaving you feeling anxious about how much you need to do.
Some industries experience high and low seasons. Sometimes things heat up around launch time, or maybe there’s just a big problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Whatever the case, this is for scenarios where there is an end in sight, but you need a little help to keep your eyes on the target.
Mental: Change Your Language
Don’t worry; you don’t have to be bilingual. This is more about using different words to describe your situation. For example, when you have a crushing amount to do and you can’t see how you’ll get through it in time, you might be ready to say, “I’m stressed.”
Don’t. Instead, say “I’m focused.”
Being focused is empowering. It means that you are dealing with the issue at hand and refuse to be distracted. When I am experiencing stress, or any emotion for that matter, it shows on my face, and people comment on it. By changing “stressed” to “focused,” I get a completely different and more helpful reaction from my colleagues. I’m more likely to get the space I need if I say I’m focused. I’m more likely to be offered emotional support if I say I’m stressed.
Action: Spend 30 Minutes on Each of Your Priorities
When you have a lot of work to do, it’s hard to keep track of everything and gauge what really needs to be done right now. I tend to make the mistake of focusing on my top priority until it’s done. But by that time, I’ve lost opportunities on my other projects.
A better strategy is to spend a little time with each project, and gauge how intensive each project is. From there you can put the first steps in motion, and figure out if you need additional resources to get it done.
Set a timer for 30 minutes and work on your first priority. Once your time is up, set another timer for 30 minutes; work on your second priority, and so on. Spending a few minutes to organize and prep will give you a chance to see if your project can be wrapped up faster than you expected, or if it’s dependent on something else, like getting answers from a colleague. By spending just 30 minutes doing as much as you can, you’ll put these pieces in motion rather than rushing them at the end.
Tech: Use Headphones
Headphones, especially noise cancelling headphones, are a great tool for helping you stay focused for three reasons:
- Cancelling out the noise around you reduces distractions.
- Music can help you find a groove and stay in it.
- Simply wearing headphones (you don’t even have to be listening to anything) is like putting up a sign that says, “I don’t want to be interrupted with chit chat right now.”
When You Notice Your Stress is Growing
If you are experiencing consistent stress, it’s time to reevaluate your current stress factors in order to find a system that can alleviate what is burdening you.
The next steps are for when problems are snowballing and getting out of control. Use this advice as a way to validate your feelings and push you to the next step.
Mental: Know What You Can Accomplish in a Day
It took me a long time to realize that I can’t get through a week’s worth of work in just one day. I can usually only finish one good article per day and move a couple smaller projects along.
Today, I only put three tasks on my daily to-do list. As a result, I do those three things really well and have increased my value. But this is me. Your work and capacity are unique to you.
It’s important to figure out how much time it takes you to complete your average task, as well as how much intensive vs passive work you can do in a day. This information will give you the confidence to effectively execute, delegate, outsource or postpone.
Action: Schedule Your Work and Stick to It
I recently took on way more work than I could reasonably finish in the given time frame. When I realized my mistake, it was too late, and people were depending on me.
Knowing how long a project takes and how much I can do before my daily burnout, I blocked out time in my calendar to get it done. What I thought I could finish in a week, was going to take me three with no distractions, no weekends and working more than 10 hours every day. Yikes. But putting it in my calendar did reduce my stress. It’s a way to accept the situation and have a plan to tackle it.
I recommend doing one thing that I didn’t: plan to put out fires. Schedule in some buffer time because you will undoubtedly need it.
Tech: Can AI Do This?
The next thing to do when you are experiencing consistent stress is to find a more efficient system. There might be a new software on the market that can automate part of your job. I wouldn’t listen to the fear mongers who claim automation is going to replace all of our jobs. Employing a more efficient system makes you better at your job and makes it possible to manage more work overall.
When Stress Is Overwhelming You at Work
When you experience an overwhelming amount of stress, there may be a bigger problem at hand. It’s time to take a step back, and get to the root of the issue. The worst thing you can do is let your situation continue. Instead, give yourself some time to identify what is causing you stress, and do what needs to be done to resolve the issue.
Mental: Write Freely
Turn off everything; grab a paper and pen, and commit to writing three pages of whatever is on your mind. Writing will help you slow down, and be honest with yourself. You’ll be forced to reconcile with every word, and sort out your situation. It’s one of the best ways to separate what is factual from what is emotional. Since you can shred everything afterwards, it’s a good time to let go of your ego and truly reflect.
Action: Speak Up
After taking some time to reflect, you should have a clearer understanding of what is causing you stress. It could be that you are spread too thin, or that you have a colleague making it more difficult to do your job. Whatever the case, when your stress factors are out of your control, it’s your responsibility to speak up. Tell you manager you need help.
This isn’t water cooler talk, so set a meeting. Check your stress and emotions at the door and speak objectively. Lay out the facts and, if possible, offer a couple solutions.
Tech: Use Tools That Foster Transparency
Transparency makes it easier to spot imbalances, miscommunications, and to hold people accountable. Fortunately, there are a lot of online tools to help teams foster an environment of transparency.
You can use time management apps to show how much work everyone is putting in. Project management tools can show how work is distributed and being completed across the team. Cloud documents allow users to track who, when, and what changes are made. And communication apps get everyone on the same page.
It’s unlikely your boss wants to stress you out to the point of total burnout, or that you want that for your own team. Transparency tools help managers check and balance stress factors.
Are you still stressed out? After you try some of these exercises, take our free 30-day trial and see how ProjectManager.com can make your day less stressful. Our cloud-based project management software is ideal for making complicated projects easy to plan, monitor and track to make sure they stay under control.