Staying cool at work is essential. For starters, it’s critical for your mental (and physical) health to effectively manage work stress: according to the American Psychological Association, “In the short term, a stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease.”
Aside from helping keep you out of the hospital, keeping a cool head will also improve your job performance and your relations with your co-workers. Losing control of your temper at work could even cause you to be reprimanded or fired. Here are some tips to deal with the inevitable bad work day without killing yourself with stress:
- Take Breaks
When things get tough, how much time do you lose to just…freaking out? Ranting to coworkers, writing frantic emails, texting sad faces to your spouse, hiding in the bathroom? I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen people lose literally hours of work to just ranting and raving about how busy they are, and then turn around and say they don’t have time for lunch, or a coffee break. If you’re really starting to lose control of your stress level at work, do everyone a favour and take a walk. Grab a coffee, or a sandwich. I promise going hungry is not helping your mood. Take 30 minutes to collect yourself, and then sit down and really get to work. You’ll do a better job and make a bigger dent in that seemingly endless to-do list.
Sometimes work is its own best medicine. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks to get done? No amount of fretting will help. Make a list, prioritize it, and then pick the most important task and start working, drowning everything else out. Let yourself become wrapped up in one thing and you’ll find your mood improves and you actually get something done to alleviate that stress a little. You got this!
- If you have a problem with a co-worker, talk to them (AFTER you’ve calmed down)
A screaming match or email feud with a co-worker reflects poorly on everyone. After you’ve calmed down, even if it has to wait until the next day, go talk to your co-worker (face to face if possible) and calmly explain what upset you and how you would’ve preferred the situation went down. Avoid bringing supervisors into the mess until after you’ve tried to smooth it over yourself. You’re both adults and chances are you don’t need outside help to be civil with each other about your disagreements. And as someone who has plenty of experience managing others, let me tell you, there is nothing your supervisor hates more than having to mediate a small dispute that could’ve easily been taken care of with one quick conversation. Be a solution, not a problem.
- Be Honest About Your Workload
I work with a colleague who shares my desire to make a lot of money and develop new business opportunities rapidly. This is a good thing. But he’ll often call me and rattle off all the things he wants to get accomplished, and it will literally be 6 months’ worth of work. Or sometimes it’ll just be a small request, but I’ll already have my next week completely packed with more urgent projects and it doesn’t make sense to accommodate it. This can freak me out. But quite often, it’s actually not a big deal for me to say “I’ll put that on my list, but I can’t address it right now/today/this week/this year.” You’d be surprised how often someone’s just telling you about something they need from you so that they can check it off their own personal to-do list and get it off their chest while they have the chance. Give a timeline if you can, tell them what you need to address first if it’s any of their business, put it on your “to deal with later” list, and stop stressing. You do not need to drop everything for every phone call or email that comes in with something new.
- Take care of yourself at home
Sometimes you just have a bad day. It happens. But to make sure it doesn’t turn into a bad week/month/life, you’ll want to exercise some self-care at home so that you come back to work in the morning feeling fresh and ready for action. Eat a healthy dinner, get some exercise, enjoy time with your family or friends, and get at least 7 hours’ worth of sleep. If you must work at home, at least carve out some boundaries so that you have a few hours where you can disconnect from it completely. Unless your boss or client is an actual sadist (in which case, maybe change jobs?), they are not expecting you to spend every waking moment focused on work. The more awesome the rest of your life is, the easier it’ll be to roll with the punches at the office.
Any tips you’d add? How do you manage your stress levels in the office? Comment below!