Even when you really love your job, you're bound to go through periods when tackling your daily tasks makes you stressed and on edge. But if feeling frazzled about work is your default mode, something's got to give if you don't want to burn out.
While it may not be feasible or necessary to change jobs, there are a few major aspects of your life that you can change to help you manage your stress better. Here's what you can do right now to help you feel calmer and more at ease in the workplace.
Change your habits
Your day-to-day practices and routines often play a huge role in your stress levels. Breaking bad habits and forging good ones can help you feel more at ease during the workday. Here are some good habits to adopt:
Schedule breaks into your day. If you're glued to your chair for the entire workday and never give yourself any time away from work-related tasks, you're much more likely to be stressed out. Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager at Web design agency Blue Fountain Media, advised building designated breaks into your daily schedule, and really sticking to them.
"Go for a walk, grab coffee or take the time to sit down and have lunch," Paley told Business News Daily. "All of these things give you the time to clear your mind, give your brain a break from whatever you're working on and reduce stress. Breaks lasting no more than an hour won't cut into your productivity, and are especially beneficial if you work in a position where creativity is important."
Paley noted that scheduling these breaks at similar times every day helps you train yourself to be prepared for a "brain reset," making you far more productive over the course of a day. [5 Simple Scientific Ways to Be Less Stressed at Work]
Devote time to physical, mental and emotional self-maintenance. John Koeberer, author of "Green-Lighting Your Future: How to Manifest the Perfect Life" (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013), said a healthy diet and regular exercise, along with a good self-image and spiritual practices, can prepare you to deal with stress successfully.
"Just the knowledge that your mind, body and soul are in sturdy shape is a huge deterrent to stress getting a foothold," Koeberer said.
Keep a handwritten to-do list. In the digital age, the notion of writing out your tasks for the day might seem tedious, wasteful and unnecessary. But Paley said that a prioritized, handwritten list of your most important to-do's could help you get a clearer outline of what your day should look like.
"By having a handwritten to-do list ... my tasks for the day never get lost amongst all the other things happening on my computer over the course of a day, and I don't stress out over whether or not I'm forgetting any important tasks," Paley said. "[Writing] the list in the morning helps to outline what the day will look like and make it clearer at the beginning of the day what needs to get done. Additionally, crossing off items of your list physically can be incredibly gratifying and instill a feeling of relief and accomplishment."
Change your communication
How do you interact with your officemates? Do you have a friendly relationship, or do you duck behind your computer screen all day and avoid contact? Slight changes to your communication could make you feel a little more connected, and therefore less stressed. Try these tips:
Socialize with your co-workers. You don't have to be a social butterfly and hit up happy hour every week, but making small talk with your colleagues might actually help you de-stress. Discussing light subjects, whether job related or not, can be beneficial for productivity and stress release, Paley said.
"You will begin to understand one another on a more individual level and work in a more collaborative environment as a result," he added.
Even just getting to know the people on your immediate team can improve your mood and help you work together better.
Projects "can be very stressful if you're working with people you don't know well," Paley said. "Lead the team you're working with through team-building exercises when you have downtime — whether it is playing a cooperative game, going out for food or just doing something you all love — together in your free time."
Use the right communication tools. While being connected via your mobile device 24/7 comes with its own set of stressors, it can also alleviate some of the worries you might have about missing important issues that come up when you're working outside of the office.
"Set up your business with flexibility in mind, and find the tools that enable you to work wherever you are," said Aaron Charlesworth, vice president of unified communications at VoiP phone service provider Vonage. "Knowing that you can always connect with customers, partners and employees easily across all end points ... whenever needed and without worry removes one of the biggest stresses any business [or worker] might face."
Cut ties with negative people in your life. It may be a cliché, but it's true: Distancing yourself from people that cause you stress or anxiety will make you a happier, less stressed person. Koeberer recommended seeking out positive, encouraging friends and colleagues, while keeping the sour ones at arm's length.
"These kinds of people have an immense negative impact — avoid them," he said. "Cheer up your environment by bringing more cheerful, optimistic and friendly people into your life."
Change your mind-set
As with many difficult situations, an attitude adjustment can go a long way in dealing with workplace stress. Instead of fixating on the things that make you stressed, try to view them from a different perspective:
Accept that you're not immune from stress — but remember that you can overcome it. Few people are able to lead a fully stress-free life all the time, but Koeberer said that knowing the enemy (stress) is the key to beating it faster. He recommended educating yourself more fully on how and why stress can manifest itself, and attacking the problem at the root.
Stop thinking you have to be right. For many people, defending ideas and opinions when someone says they're wrong is a constant source of stress and anger at work. Koeberer said it's important not to let the desire to be right bog you down, especially in your professional life. Choose your battles carefully, and if a situation isn't worth arguing over, stop trying to change the other person's mind and let it go.
Remember that all negative situations will pass. When you're bogged down with stress-inducing projects and deadlines, it can be difficult to see beyond them. Even long-term assignments end eventually, so you just need to keep going and remember that the challenges you're facing now will seem small and insignificant when you've finally overcome them.
"We can all recollect instances that we thought at the time were real deal-killers, only to have them turn out to be ... a small anthill," Koeberer said. "Adopt the thought that this, too, shall pass."
Additional reporting by David Mielach.