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Some degree of stress at work is inevitable. However, workplace stress shouldn’t stay with you long after the workday ends. If job-related stress is affecting your life both at work and away, it’s time to do something about it.
Reducing your stress doesn’t have to mean giving up career progress. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to clear your mind and find a path forward. When people are less stressed, they are more productive, are more creative, and engage in higher-level thinking than when their minds are bogged down with stress.
Of course, there’s also the impact on health and quality of life. While ignoring workplace stress may help you meet deadlines today, it could harm your ability to maintain your job long-term. Chronic stress increases your risk of developing a wide range of health problems, including anxiety and depression, heart disease, digestive issues, obesity, and diabetes.
If you want to feel better today and maintain your health long term, effective stress management is crucial. To keep workplace stress in check, you need to do three things:
- Practice self-care in and out of the office.
- Balance your workload.
- Manage workplace relationships.
Self-care describes the activities you do to maintain your physical and mental health. It includes basic yet underappreciated things like eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and living an active lifestyle. It also includes the little things that help you feel connected to yourself, like participating in a hobby, spending time with friends and family, and relaxing in a peaceful environment. All of these things work together to create real benefits for your life. When you make self-care a habit, you’ll notice you feel more productive and capable, your self-esteem is higher, and you’re less prone to illness and malaise.
A demanding life presents many barriers to effective self-care. It’s hard to relax quietly if your phone never stops buzzing with work emails, and squeezing in healthy meals is tough when you have a boss who expects you to work through lunch. However, you can’t be effective at work if you’re not taking care of yourself. Managing your workload and office relationships is key to creating the time and space for self-care.
You can meet deadlines and excel at work without skipping meals or putting in long hours of overtime. The key is prioritizing your work, managing your time, and practicing discipline so you stay focused on the task at hand.
Entrepreneur recommends listing your tasks and rating them by urgency and importance. Things that are both urgent and important should come first, but you shouldn’t let a constant flow of urgent tasks prevent you from tackling important projects. Schedule your time so you can work on both short- and long-term projects, and watch the clock so you don’t spend too much time on any one task.
Sometimes it’s not your time-management abilities that are the problem. If the issue is that your job simply expects more than you can feasibly deliver, take a closer look at your workplace relationships. Are there clear boundaries between you, your supervisors, and your coworkers, or are you expected to drop everything to solve other people’s issues? Another common problem is a job that expects you to be on call at all hours.
It’s difficult to change established boundaries, but it’s not impossible. Read Inspiring Leadership Now’s blog for practical advice on saying no gently but firmly, weaning your team off after-hours calls, and doing so without losing your standing at work. If your boss doesn’t respect your boundaries, it may be time to look for another job.
You spend decades of your life working. If you spend that entire time living under chronic stress, your health may be too poor to enjoy the retirement years when they finally come. To be a better employee and a happier, healthier person, get serious about managing your work-related stress.