In a Feb 2015 APA report, 60% of American adults are stressed about their job. Not surprising, with how much we are bombarded with social media, multiple forms of communication (texting included), and the increase in job responsibilities and resulting stress due to downsizing from the recession. Although the APA reported stress levels are down, 60% is still a big number.
Everyone handles stress uniquely, causing different problems depending on the person, from irritability, insomnia, to more serious health related issues. It seems simple to say “just better manage your time and you will better manage your stress”, but it’s not always that easy. If you would you consider yourself to be in the 60%, here are a few tips that can help you manage your stress and work towards better balance for you. *Keep in mind that work-life balance, and low stress, looks different for everyone. Before you read further, take a moment to write down what low stress looks like for you...
1) Identify what you are ignoring
Sometimes being focused on just one area in life- perhaps a big project at work, finding a job, or waiting to hear back about a promotion- causes stress. And when we only focus on one area, it means not only are we being too attached to the outcome in that area of our lives, we may be letting other things slide that are important to our sense of well-being or fulfillment. How many unread emails do you have in your personal inbox? When is the last time you FaceTimed your sister? When is the last time you played basketball with your friends? When we make sure to spend some time and energy on the things we enjoy, that automatically reduces stress. And, it helps us become less attached to a specific outcome on a project or goal we have. Being too attached can cause needless anxiety and worry about the outcome.
Action tips: 1) Identify three areas you are neglecting in your life. Decide what action steps you can take this week to start giving those areas more attention. Keep it simple- you will be more likely to incorporate it into your weekly routine. Call your sister during your lunch hour for example. Don’t add it as an additional item on your to do list, work it into times you will already be taking a break. 2) With your top 3 goals at work, how attached are you to their result? This isn’t to say become so detached that you are no longer motivated. But, in what areas are you holding on too tight? Determine what those are, and write an affirmation statement you post on your dresser for example, that allows you to focus on the result you want, but not be obsessed about it if it’s taking up too much of your mental energy.
2) Control your time
You’ve heard this before: When you are at work, dedicate that time to work. But when you clock out, try to stop thinking about work for the evening. Sometimes easier said than done. But we find that with our clients, if they start to implement small boundaries around their work, it can make a very big difference. Turn off your push notifications for work emails once you leave the office. Don’t check work voicemails over the weekend, and if you have to because there’s an urgent project, decide when you’ll do it-just once. The point is to stay in control of your job, not have your job control you.
Action tip: Decide on a “work-free” time for your evenings or weekends. Set realistic goals for yourself depending on your job and industry rather than stretching yourself too thin. This may seem difficult, but always trying to stay connected to work creates higher stress levels, because we feel we can never disconnect. Give yourself permission to step away and disconnect from work to gain perspective again.
3) Avoid procrastinating
When you are assigned to work on a project with a deadline, don’t wait until the night before to work on the whole thing. Although there are some that say they work better under pressure, for the majority of us this just causes unnecessary stress. Be balanced and plan out a schedule that will allow you to work on your project starting from day one.
Action tip: Talk to a trusted coworker or friend and ask them how they would describe you when you leave projects until the last minute. Would they say you are extra stressed out during those times? If you don’t know the best way to plan out your next project, ask your mentor for assistance.
4) Maintain a sense of humor
We all know the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” It’s true! Laughter relaxes your body, releases endorphins, and protects the heart. It is hard to be stressed and laugh at the same time. So make sure you are taking time daily to laugh- whether it be a joke with a co-worker, calling your significant other during a break, watching a funny video online- whatever makes you laugh that is appropriate in the workplace.
Action tip: Make sure you are taking time to do something that makes you laugh daily. If you need accountability with this one, ask a co-worker to help you.