Often, your ability to deal with stress can mean the difference between success and failure at work. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Whatever your work demands or ambitions, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress and improve your job satisfaction.
Stress isn’t always bad. Stress within your comfort zone can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges in the workplace. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation or alert to prevent accidents or costly mistakes at work. But in today’s hectic world, the workplace can often seem like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, and ever increasing demands can leave you feeling worried, uncertain, and overwhelmed by stress.
When stress exceeds your comfort zone, it stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body as well as your job satisfaction. But no matter what you do for a living, or how stressful your job is, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control at work.
When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become angry, irritable, or withdrawn. Other signs and symptoms of excessive stress at work include:
Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Since the face and heart are wired together in the brain, talking face to face with a good listener can help to quickly calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Of course, you may not have a close buddy at work, but you can take steps to be more sociable with your coworkers. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smart phone or tablet, try engaging your colleagues.
Aerobic exercise—activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat—is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Try walking, dancing, swimming, or playing ping pong with your kids. For best results, try to get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days. If it’s easier to fit into your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.
Your food choices can have a huge impact on how you feel during the work day. Eating small, frequent and healthy meals, for example, can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keeping your energy and focus up, and avoiding mood swings. Low blood sugar, on the other hand, can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic.
Not only can stress and worry can cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress.
When job and workplace stress threatens to overwhelm you, there are simple, practical steps you can take to regain control over the situation. Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.