Feeling a tinge of stress before a big presentation or interview is perfectly normal. But high levels of stress or regular stress compounded over a period of time are incredibly dangerous to you. Sometimes we find it hard to avoid stressors at work, and while it’s almost impossible to eliminate work related stress all together, there are plenty of strategies for reducing it. In fact, reduced stress will increase your happiness, healthiness, and productivity! Don’t believe me? For starters, it’s important you know the dangers of getting overstressed at work:
Dangers of Too Much Stress at Work
> Inappropriate reactions: taking your stress out on the wrong person or overreacting to small things because your stress from one aspect of your life is being funneled into another
> Weakened Immune System: Lack of sleep, lack of relaxation and a plethora of stress is a recipe for a weakened immune system. That means watch out for flu season, colds, and other more serious illnesses. They’ll call your stressed out body home and leave a lot slower than they normally would.
> Poor Heart Health: Stress is a major factor in increased blood pressure and heart disease risk. Heart attacks and arrhythmias are not something you want to welcome into your life with open arms, but that’s essentially what elevated or long-term stress does.
> Skin, muscle and stomach issues: From acne to soreness to indigestion, stress can cause uncomfortable health issues that you don’t want to mess with.
> Panic Attacks: Compounded stress can result in panic attacks. Shortness of breath, intense fear and dizziness, with heart pounding side effects, panic attacks can happen at any time and really derail your life.
> Lack of focus: When you’re stressed out about one area of your job or life, it’s hard to focus on other things. That will split your attention and cause mistakes that could cost you future raises, promotions, or even your current job.
> Amplifies other health problems: If you have other health problems, you’ve probably heard your doctor warn of the dangers of stress. It tends to amplify existing health problems and make everything worse.
Identify what is stressing you out
Before you can get to work reducing your stress, you’ll need to identify what is stressing you out. Here’s a list of some common stressors that can plague any professional:
1. Looming deadlines
2. Friction with coworkers
3. Friction with management
4. Lack of growth and upward mobility opportunities
5. Uncertainty about the future of the company or your role at the company
6. Too much work on your plate
7. Rapid, unexpected change
8. A lack of work/life balance
9. Money or problems at home
10. This list of stressors
How to deal with/reduce your stress at work
Now that your job (and my list, sorry about that) have thoroughly stressed you out, it’s time to figure out how to shrink that stress down into little to nothing. You don’t want to experience, or keep experiencing, any of the side effects of stress any longer! Here are a few ways you can squash your stress:
> Remember that stress is cumulative. You may be able to push yourself for a few weeks, leaving work late and coming in early, spending your free time on learning and going full speed ahead, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sustainable effort. Stress is cumulative, after four or six weeks of pushing yourself beyond your limits you may be on the verge of a break down. Instead, try to add in periodic recharging activities that you enjoy. These activities vary but chances are you know what yours are: spending time with friends or family, spending time on your hobbies, spending time at the gym or the spa, or just spending more time sleeping. Just as you need to be productive regularly, you need to take the time to recharge yourself regularly.
> Think of stress like a bucket. Some activities drain you, some refill you. Identify which tasks are draining you at work and try to find a counterweight to them. If that means taking a ten minute walk after completing one of your more stressful projects, do that. If it means getting an extra hour of sleep before a day filled with client meetings, go for it! Balancing those draining tasks with refilling activities is how you maintain a balanced emotional state.
> Sleep and eat like a champion! Stress can wreak havoc on your health. If you’re heading into a particularly stressful week or month, make sure you surround yourself with healthy choices that will recharge you automatically. This means drinking tons of water, eating healthy, balanced meals and getting enough sleep whenever possible. Caffeine soaked days and sleepless nights may help you get some work done faster, but the lack of sleep may result in you getting sick and having to take time off. Treat yourself well and your productivity will soar!
> Focus on your healthy relationships as much as you can. Toxic relationships are arguably more stressful than an overflowing workload. After all, when your workload is overwhelming you can take the time to organize and prioritize. When there’s tension at home or in the workplace, it can occupy too much of your mind power and cause constant stress. In the case of stressful work relationships, confrontation is key. If it’s a one-time problem, there will probably be an easy solution. If the issue is more personality based, the best thing you can do is accept that you cannot control the actions or opinions of others and move on. Letting it stress you out will keep you preoccupied and less productive.
> Organize to reduce your work overflow. When your work is flooding your inbox and overwhelming your senses, take a deep breath and get ready to get organized! First, write down the top three tasks you need to get done as soon as you get in in the morning. Yes, even before you check your email. This will help keep you on track all day. Maybe you’ll have to stay late a few nights in order to get everything done. That’s fine, as long as you remember to add extra relaxation in over the weekend or a few extra hours of sleep the night after you complete a big project. Your stressors should be equally countered with rechargers at all times if you want to be your most productive self.
> When all else fails, escape. When your personal workplace culture preferences aren’t met in your workplace or your work style conflicts with the style expected from you, the mismatch can cause major stress. Similarly, when your future at a company or the company’s future are uncertain, it’s hard not to turn into a big ball of stress. With smaller issues like overwhelming workload or coworker conflict, take every step listed above into account. However, if you find nothing seems to fix these issues and they continuously cause you stress, it may be time to consider an escape route. Whether that means requesting a transfer to a different department or office, a search for a new job a more suitable company, or a complete career reevaluation, get your escape plan in order. Staying in a chronically stressful situation isn’t worth it, especially right now when there are so many IT opportunities available.
Sometimes work is stressful. Sometimes life is stressful. When you don’t know how to handle this stress properly, it can get in the way of you living a happy, healthy, and productive life. Identify your stressors and start to do everything you can to reduce them through recharging, reevaluating and relaxing.