It’s natural for us to ignore mental health issues we cannot see, and stress at work is no exception. However, it’s exactly the intangibility of stress that makes it crucial for us to recognize and address it.
Work-related stress is “negatively related to performance,” according to a research paper titled Job Stress and Its Impact on Employees’ Performance. The authors of the paper found that the higher the stress, the lower the performance. That’s why you have to identify workplace stress and learn how to manage it effectively for optimum results and better well-being.
Here is our comprehensive stress-management action plan for work-related stress.
Figure out the root cause
Before you take action, you need to figure out what’s causing your work-related stress.
Is it an excessive workload, a toxic workplace relationship, or unreasonable performance expectations? Dig deep and find the root.Is it an excessive workload, a toxic workplace relationship, or unreasonable performance expectations? Dig deep and find the root. @WUZZUF #WorkLifeBalanceClick To Tweet
After you recognize the cause, you should identify the type of stress you’re experiencing. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are three types of stress:
- Short-term stress: It’s the immediate biological reaction your body has to a triggered environmental threat. Short-term stress is the type of stress we all commonly experience when things go wrong and when in small infrequent doses has no harmful health effects. In fact, as long as it’s managed well, acute stress can actually be healthy because it trains your body and mind to handle future stressful events better.
- Long-term stress: It’s the harmful version of short-term stress. Long-term stress occurs when healthy doses of short-term stress turn into long episodes of unhealthy stress. It’s what happens when you find yourself anxious and irritable for long stretches of time and struggling to cope with the pressure.
- Chronic stress: It’s the most dangerous type of stress because it causes the sufferer to be in suffocating crisis mode all the time. Chronic stress could go on unresolved for years and lead to serious mental health problems, in addition to serious physical problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
What you should do if your work-related stress is short-term
1. Prioritize your projects and tasks
If you are struggling to handle the workload you’ve been assigned and are stressed about meeting your deadlines, you should create a task prioritization system so you can be more productive.
Start by categorizing your projects and their associated tasks, write each task’s deadline, and then order them from highest to lowest priority. This will allow you to begin executing the most important first, stay on top of your responsibilities, and get more done in the long run.
You can try the task prioritization system we use here at WUZZUF:
- Tasks are prioritized based on three key factors: the task’s urgency, its significance to your team, and its significance to the business.
- Each task is assigned a number between 1 and 5, with 1 signifying the highest priority and 5 signifying the absolute lowest.
- For example, if Task (A) is only significant to your team and has to be completed tomorrow and Task (B) is crucial to your whole company but has to be completed in a week, you work on Task (A) first.
2. Take care of your body
Because stress is primarily a triggered biological response, taking good care of your body will help interrupt that response and instead trigger your relaxation responses. To do this, make sure you do the following:
- Get a good eight-hour sleep. Sometimes, sleeping well is something we disregard when we are overwhelmed with work, but, trust me, pulling all-nighters at the office won’t help anyone. You’ll find yourself unable to focus and perform at your best; quality sleep helps boost our creative problem-solving skill which will surely be handy when you head to the office in the morning.
- Avoid processed foods that make you feel anxious and instead eat whole foods and add more fruits and vegetables and plenty of water to your diet. If you tend to forget to eat healthy meals in the middle of your busy and stressful workday, make sure you remind yourself by leaving friendly sticky notes on your desk or setting up reminders on your phone.
- Exercise as regularly as you can. You don’t have to hit the gym every single day to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Just taking short brisk walks and getting up and stretching every now and then during the workday can help release brain chemicals that help in moderating stress.
3. Recharge and relax
Give yourself the time to disconnect from work and unwind. Your mind needs time off in order for it to be rested enough to continue working at its best. You need to take breaks at work and recover from stress by completely disengaging from work-related activities. This is crucial for you to return to your pre-stress levels of functioning.
Also try to relax through meditation techniques such as mindfulness exercises, in which you focus on the present moment without passing judgment on that which you are experiencing. Mindfulness could help you learn how to focus on what matters most and handle future challenges at work.
What you should do if your work-related stress is long-term or chronic
1. Speak up
It can be quite difficult to ask for help, especially when you feel like you’re falling short. But if you know for sure there’s something happening at work that’s affecting your health, you have to speak up.If you know for sure there’s something happening at work that’s affecting your mental health, you have to speak up.Click To Tweet
Ideally, you should talk to your manager, but if you feel like you can’t speak to your direct manager or your department manager at first, you can talk to a coworker you trust. But following that, you have to tell the person who has the authority to change things that can help you.
2. Ask for what you need
Once you’ve communicated the cause of your stress to the right person, ask for what you need to solve the problem. You can ask for any of the following:
- Your requirements and deadlines to be revisited: If you think what’s being asked of you or the time you’re asked to complete it in is unrealistic or undoable, ask for them to be revisited.
- A salary boost: If you think you’re not being compensated fairly for the amount or quality of work you’re doing, you need to say something about it. And make sure you’re specific about the amount you want to increase.
- A lighter workload: If you think you have an overwhelming amount of work to do and you cannot handle it even after you’ve prioritized your tasks and managed your time, you should communicate that you need a lighter workload to be able to perform better.
- More growth and advancement opportunities: If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you’re not learning anything new in your current job, ask for responsibilities that allow you to grow and achieve your career goals.
- Clearer work expectations: If no one is communicating what’s expected of you at work, you deserve to know and you have the right to ask for it.
- Better communication: If your projects constantly suffer from a web of miscommunication and misalignment within your team or across different teams, say something about it.
3. Establish healthy boundaries
After resolving your problem, establishing work-life balance boundaries will go a long way in limiting the chances of your stressors recurring. This is what you can do:
- Allocate definitive time periods for work: Make sure you’re not overworking yourself or letting your work bleed into your personal life by allocating periods of time for work and periods of time for self-care and personal relationships.
- Learn to say “no”: When it comes to taking on projects and tasks, you have the right to say no. Only accept the amount of work you know you’ll be able to handle without it negatively affecting your mental health.
It’s important to emphasize that speaking up about work-related stress is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. It means you’re strong enough to recognize a problem that’s negatively affecting your life, address it, and make an effort to solve it.
Are you struggling to cope with work stress right now? Share your experience with us in the comments below.
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