You know that feeling when your to-do list starts to get too long to do anything about?
Not only do you have yesterday's tasks you didn't get to, but now you're adding more things to your list. And they're all important.
That's how your body feels when dealing with chronic stress.
Not only is it dealing with whatever happened yesterday, but now it's got today's stressors to deal with too.
Without regularly sending that stress on its way, you'll keep building up your mental, emotional, and physical to-do lists.
In this article, we'll review the causes of workplace stress, along with ideas to address each of them.
Tips for Beating Workplace Stress
No one is a stranger to stress. Especially workplace stress.
But when it comes to finding ways to deal with stress, it's important to note that it's not stress that's the problem, it's chronic stress.
Chronic stress is your regular everyday stress that never gets dealt with.
In other words, it's fine to feel a little pressure to do well on a project or to complete your work on time. In fact it's that extra push of stress that can keep you focused on what you need to be doing.
The problem comes when that little bit of stress is compounded day after day. And when you jump from one slightly stressful environment to another, without any downtime or outlet for relaxing, that's when the trouble begins.
Because that's when your regular garden variety stress becomes chronic.
Let's check out some of the causes of stress at work.
What Are the Causes of Workplace Stress?
Mental Stress at Work
- Mental overstimulation
- Too much work or responsibilities to handle
- Lack of organization
- Lack of clarity
- Inability to focus
Emotional Stress at Work
- Poor relationships with co-workers, mangers, clients
- Negative self-talk
- Low sense of self-worth
Physical Stress at Work
- Repetitive motions
- Sitting/standing for long hours
- Impact of keyboard/mouse on wrists
- Heavy lifting
- Typical risk of injury depends on nature of work
How to Deal With Work Stress
Whether it's mental, emotional, or purely physical stress, any way you address it can touch on all three sources.
Studies show that a few minutes of meditation or mindful breathing techniques can cause a near-instant change in stress levels. These exercises are a great stress-reliever because they're free and don't require any supplies.
A 15-minute chair massage can profoundly affect stress as well. This includes the physical discomfort of tight muscles as well as the mental/emotional stress of feeling overwhelmed.
Taking a walk (outside if possible) is another great way to hit the reset button on workplace stress. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further away from the office door. It doesn't have to be hard to add more physical activity.
And you can't forget a good 30-60 minute workout to calm the mind and loosen up physical stress.
Job Stress Prevention
Preventing Mental Stress at Work
Creating a customized, complete organization system is a must. Any kind of system that helps you keep on top of your incoming messages, data, ideas, projects, etc. is going to help you keep your head clear.
Make sure you are clear about your work responsibilities.
This may seem like an obvious point, but it's not as clear as you'd think. Job responsibilities can shift and change over time, so make sure you (and who ever you report to) is clear on what's expected.
Create a list of daily goals -- no more than 3 items -- that must get done each day. Focus on giving those tasks priority, and then whatever comes your way throughout the day can get attention without derailing your plan completely.
Preventing Emotional Job Stress
For self-created stress (pessimism, self-esteem, etc.) a little reframing can go a long way. There are resources to help with this.
When it comes to interpersonal stress, another tactic is required. A lot of personal problems between coworkers can be due to a simple matter of miscommunication. Learning non-violent communication skills can be beneficial for all aspects of life, not just work relationships.
Keeping a handle on your work/life balance as much as possible can help in this way too. Monday morning is always a little easier to handle after a weekend full of activities you love. If there's any way to create a flexible work schedule, go for it. Even a couple days a month working from home can make a difference.
Avoiding Physical Stress on the Job
The physical stress you face at work will depend on what kind of work you do. Physical stress is best prevented through regular physical exercise and bodywork. Both these activities work in different ways to move stagnant fluids through muscles and soft tissues.
This keeps new blood moving through the body and helps prevent muscle knots and tension.
Though both fitness and massage do some similar things, you'll get the best results incorporating both.
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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in January 2016. It has been updated to reflect accuracy and completeness.