Everyone experiences workplace stress at some point. While tiny amounts of stress can help you get stuff done, too much stress can be absolutely debilitating. That’s why coping with workplace stress is so essential for future success.
The ill-effects of stress include things like feeling overwhelmed, developing headaches and stomach problems, catching frequent colds, forgetfulness, and difficulty focusing.
It can be tempting to write off stress as a necessary evil for high-achieving people working in high-pressure fields. However, stress doesn’t just affect your quality of life but the quality of your work. If you want to keep advancing your career, you’ll need to learn how to deal with workplace stress.
The following are my favorite sixteen tips for dealing with stress at work.
1. Create an intentional morning routine.
Your morning routine can either ease you into the day or propel you into the depths of stress. If your morning routine is causing you stress, you’re showing up to work stressed before the workday has even begun!
Instead of sleeping late and rushing to get to work without eating a healthy breakfast, figure out how much time you need to carry out a good morning routine. For example, you might decide to sit down and eat breakfast while reading a chapter of a book. If your ideal morning routine takes thirty minutes, make sure you wake up thirty minutes earlier.
Workplace stress is often unavoidable. However, you can take work proactively to ensure your morning routine isn’t adding to that stress. Best of all, a life-giving morning routine can help you respond to workplace stress in healthier ways.
2. Practice meditation.
Meditation has many documented health benefits. It has a significant impact on stress and anxiety, both short- and long-term. If you’re dealing with workplace stress, learning to meditate is a powerful tool to help you manage it.
Fortunately, there are loads of fantastic online resources to help you get started with meditation. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations to help people learn how to reap the benefits of meditation. If you’re religious, you can integrate meditation into your other spiritual practices. This is a source of comfort for many people.
Whether you meditate in the morning or during a mid-day break, meditation is one of the best resources for coping with workplace stress. It can help you unwind and recenter yourself, even on the most difficult days.
3. Get organized.
Few things add to stress as much as a disorganized workspace. Imagine this: you’re hurrying to finish up a project before a presentation when you realize you’ve misplaced a key piece. With only half an hour left before your meeting, you spend your time rushing around your office to find what you need.
Many people discount the value of having a clean and organized workspace. While most people wouldn’t list disorganization as a major stressor, it can compound other workplace stress and leave you overwhelmed.
Take some time to tidy your workspace. Once you’ve looked at the physical space, figure out good organization for your digital space, too. Sort through emails and make sure all your digital files are easy to find when needed.
4. Invest in a comfortable chair and noise-canceling headphones.
Like a disorganized workspace, an uncomfortable chair can contribute to stress at work. When you sit in an uncomfortable chair for a few minutes at a time, it’s not very noticeable. However, spending your entire day in an uncomfortable chair can add to overall stress.
Background noise can also contribute to workplace stress. While some people work well in noisy environments, many people require
complete silence to focus. If you’re sharing your workspace with others, it isn’t always possible to find peace and quiet.
A comfortable chair and noise-canceling headphones are two great investments for coping with workplace stress. If you work for a corporation, they might even pay for these office upgrades!
5. Avoid conflict with coworkers and peers.
Conflict with coworkers can create an uncomfortable work environment for everyone involved. While some conflicts are unavoidable (such as disagreements about how work should be done), it’s important to avoid feuds with coworkers about touchy topics like politics and religion.
Whenever possible, avoid office gossip and refrain from sharing your opinions on controversial topics. While some people share about their personal lives with their coworkers, limit how much you share to prevent office drama down the road.
If you have an ongoing conflict with one of your coworkers, work proactively to resolve that conflict. Underlying tension often adds to workplace stress more than we realize.
6. Make sure you understand your boss’ expectations.
Unclear or changing expectations can cause or increase workplace stress. If you aren’t sure what your boss even wants from you, it can lead to increased stress and uncertainty. While some changes in expectations are natural, constantly shifting requirements can leave you feeling on edge.
It can be helpful to have an open conversation with your boss about the expectations of your job. Ask them what you can do to thrive in your position. Having an open conversation will not only help you manage your stress, but it will show your boss that you want to do your job well.
7. Stop trying to multitask.
Our minds weren’t wired for multitasking.
Instead of doing more things in the same amount of time, we end up slowing down and making mistakes when we try to do too many things at once. When we’re trying to do several things at once, we’re constantly switching between tasks. This slows us down.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, break up your workload into similar tasks. For example, you can start your day by responding to all emails before moving on to the next tasks. Instead of responding to each individual email as it arrives, picking a couple of times to respond throughout the day will allow you to do other work without interruption.
Working on one thing at a time is a great way to cope with workplace stress. Since you know you can only work on one thing at a time, you won’t have to feel bad about all the other things that need to be done. Just focus on the one task in front of you before moving on to another.
8. Learn time management skills.
If you’re dealing with workplace stress because you have too much work and not enough time, learning time management skills can help you cope. For example, setting boundaries and limiting interruptions can help you get things done.
Write a list of everything that needs to get done and rank the items in order of priority. Since you can only really work on one thing at a time, start with the most urgent and important items and work your way down the list. This can help if you’re feeling paralyzed by stress, since you’ll always know what to work on next.
As mentioned in the point above, setting aside blocks of time to work on similar tasks is a great way to improve your productivity and manage your time. When you plan your workday, look at your calendar and set aside blocks of time to get things done. Time management will help you identify when certain tasks will get done, which allows you to communicate those timelines with your boss or coworkers.
9. Start moving and get regular exercise.
Whether you go for a walk during a break or hit the gym after work, exercise is a powerful way to help your body manage stress. Not only will it provide you with great physical benefits, but exercise can help you clear your mind and improve your focus at work.
I talked to one woman who shared that her office had a tradition of going for a walk together at three in the afternoon. Not only did it give them a mood boost, but it was great for building workplace relationships and communicating about active projects
10. Break free from perfectionistic traps.
I get it: being a high achiever means you want to do everything perfectly. However, perfectionism is full of traps that prevent us from achieving our potential. The urge to do things perfectly can prevent us from getting everything done in the first place.
Learn to set a balance between doing things well and getting things done. While you should always strive to provide your best work, it’s okay if things aren’t perfect. The pressure to be perfect can make coping with workplace stress nearly impossible. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect to have value.
Your work is usually better than you think it is. Most perfectionists struggle to see the value in their work because they’re overwhelmed with glaring imperfections. Get a second opinion or step back from your work before evaluating how you did. This can give you the perspective you need to measure your success.
11. Create healthy boundaries.
This is a hard one for most people, especially if you work from home. With all the digital communication at our fingertips, many people feel the pressure to be available 24/7. Even if you’re working a salaried job, establish clear time boundaries.
For example, create rules about when you’ll respond to work communication. Perhaps you don’t respond to emails outside of work hours or refuse to answer the phone on your day off. While some occupations may require you to be on call in case of emergencies, learn to say “no” to non-emergency situations.
Workplace stress is even worse when it turns into stress at home. Building a healthy work-life balance will help you leave that stress at the office (even if your “office” is at your laptop, sitting at a dining room table).
12. Ask for help at work.
Sometimes stress happens when we have too much to do and not enough support to get it all done. Resist the urge to do everything yourself. Ask for help when needed, especially when you have more work than you can handle alone.
Whether you ask a coworker to tackle a project or outsource it to a third party, it’s okay to get help. If you’re chronically overworked in your position, talk to your boss about hiring additional staff. Splitting the load is a great long-term solution for coping with workplace stress.
Additionally, feel free to leverage your HR person. They are there for this very reason, to help and give prospective.
13. Turn on the tunes to help manage workplace stress.
Listening to music is a fun and lighthearted way to decrease stress and get into a better headspace. Whether you listen to work during your commute or listen through your headphones at work, music can help you manage your workplace stress.
I recently talked to someone who listened to instrumental movie soundtracks while she worked. It gave her just enough background noise to block out nearby chatter without interrupting her thoughts with lyrics.
Some people don’t work well with background noise, and that’s okay. Listening to music is still a great way for you to unwind after a long day of work. When you’re able to truly relax each evening, you’re better equipped to deal with stress the next day.
14. Identify your stressors and practice healthy stress management techniques.
If you aren’t sure what is stressing you out, take some time to figure out what’s triggering your stress. Write down situations that cause you stress, then think about how these situations triggered such an intense response.
Once you’ve identified the types of situations that make you feel more stressed, think of ways to tackle these stressors in a healthy way. For example, you might identify criticism from your boss as a major stressor. Figure out how you want to respond to that stress when it comes up. Whether you go for a walk or turn on your favorite song, create routines to help you cope with recurring workplace stressors.
15. Spend your downtime enjoying your hobbies.
You need a hobby completely unrelated to your work. When you pursue hobbies and interests unrelated to your career, you’re more likely to be satisfied and productive within your field. That’s because hobbies help you combat workplace stress and increase overall satisfaction with life.
Hobbies can be anything you like. Whether you like hiking or knitting, find ways to enjoy your hobby on a regular basis. One woman I talked to shared that when she gets a little time each day to enjoy her hobby, she’s significantly less stressed at work.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Even fifteen minutes a day is enough to enjoy the benefits of a hobby. It also gives you something to think about outside of work, letting you leave your work at the office.
16. Get professional support to manage workplace stress.
Sometimes chronic stress requires extra support. Your doctor, counselor, or therapist can provide you with the extra support you need to thrive at work. If you work in a high-stress occupation, regular counseling may even be covered by your employer.
While the coping mechanisms above can help with work-related stress, it’s important to rule out physical explanations for chronic stress. Thyroid problems and chemical imbalances can cause a host of mental health problems.
There’s no shame in taking prescription medication to help you manage these health concerns. In fact, combining medical care with the above stress management techniques can help you radically improve your life.
Workplace stress may seem like a necessary evil, but it’s definitely one that can be minimized with intentional effort. No matter how stressful your current job is, there are lots of great options for coping with workplace stress.
While many of these methods involve being proactive about your situation (such as investing in a comfortable chair or having open conversations with your boss), there are plenty of methods you can use to react to stress in the moment.
For example, you may have found this blog post because you’re stressed right now. Taking a break to turn on your favorite song, meditate, or go for a walk around the block can help you blow off steam and reduce stress levels. You don’t have to be debilitated by stress. Instead, learn how to respond to stressful situations in healthy ways. Over time, you’ll enjoy the benefits of managing your workplace stress.