“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.”
Client Elias asks: I feel like my work performance is being compromised by stress. And carrying all that stress is exhausting—sooner or later, I feel like I’m just going to collapse. How can I start dealing with it?
Coach Joel answers: Elias, you’re not alone—work is a major cause of stress for 65% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). And none of us should settle for feeling stressed at work all the time. A little surge of stress can be good—the kind that gets you in gear to meet a deadline—but chronic stress is debilitating.
Workplace stress can come from small, repeated annoyances, or it can stem from major issues with your job role or organizational culture. Many of us suffer from “rush syndrome,” the fear of slowing down. Sometimes we don’t even realize how stressed we’ve been until we learn to relax. These 10 stress reduction techniques will help you start feeling like the superstar you are.
Keep a Journal
Keep a journal for a couple of weeks to track your stress, suggests the APA. Simply acknowledging your stress and affirming you’re going to address it feels good, and it’s a first step to making changes.
Clutter leads to stress, because we know it’s something that needs to be dealt with. It’s like seeing little tasks piled up in front of you—it creates a sense of overwhelm. Take a little time to clear out that clutter, and you’ll find your mind is clearer as well.
Practice Good Posture
Sitting up straight not only projects confidence, but gives you more confidence as well, according to Time. If you get into a crouched-down pose, it will make you more fearful and stressed, because your mind is responding to your body. These techniques for reducing stress can help improve your posture and make your body feel better, which brings more stress-reducing benefits.
Engage in Deep Breathing
According to Sharon Melnick in Success Under Stress, by regulating your breath, you can break unconscious emotional patterns that persist through short, stressed breathing. Set an intention to consciously take several deep breaths at different points throughout the day, ideally before you feel extreme stress coming on.
Prepare for the Next Day
Fretting over what you need to do the next day, or how a meeting will go, creates a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, at the end of each workday, create a plan for what you’ll do the next day. Prepare thoughts you want to share at the meeting, along with a manageable “to do” list. This will help you avoid procrastinating and get high-priority tasks done on schedule.
Create Work/Life Boundaries
If you’re checking email at night, you’re probably carrying extra stress around. Set clear work/life boundaries for yourself, and stick to them, the APA advises.
If you’re not getting regular exercise, make that a daily part of your routine. Even if you work out in the evening, add some physical activity to your workday, as active breaks can lower stress. Take a walk during your lunch break, for example.
Check the Self-Criticism
Write down your greatest accomplishments and words of appreciation from others on notecards that you can keep tucked in your desk or posted on your wall. When you feel self-criticism coming on, check this self-defeating behavior by reminding yourself of those moments. This will help you stay positive as you work to overcome your inevitable challenges.
Watch a silly video on your break, or share a story about something funny your kid did. Breaking the tension with laughter will put you in a better emotional state.
Take Charge of Your Career
Lack of job satisfaction, few opportunities to advance or grow, and unclear performance expectations are major causes of workplace stress, says the APA. If these things are contributing to your stress, make a career plan now. Talk to your boss to enlist support, letting her know you want to grow with the organization.
Furthermore, try not to stress about your work stress. You’re not failing if you don’t address it all at once—implementing coping strategies takes time, as Martha Davis says in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Be patient with yourself as you begin using these techniques for stress reduction, knowing no one gets it all right all at once.
Is stress holding you back at work? Contact leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for more support in reducing stress and changing your life, and read his book Time Management Mastery for more advice on reducing rush syndrome and enjoying work-life balance.