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How to Handle Stress in the Workplace

stress.

Stress is a normal part of life. Yet if left untreated, elevated levels of stress can have seriously negative effects on your physical and mental health. And because work is so integral to our lives, the demands of employment are a common source of stress.

With some smart techniques, however, it's possible to keep workplace stress manageable. These techniques can help ensure that your performance remains strong and that your life outside the office remains positive.

How stress affects workers

The first thing to understand about workplace stress is how common it is. According to research done by the American Psychological Association (APA), roughly 65 percent of Americans report that work is their primary source of stress. The APA also reports that only 37 percent of these workers felt they were doing an adequate job of managing this stress.

Common causes of workplace stress include:

  • Overwork
  • Limited career advancement opportunities
  • Inadequate compensation
  • Being bored or unengaged on the job
  • Poor or unclear communication with management

The APA reports that stress caused by factors such as these often manifests itself in physical symptoms, including headaches, lost focus or motivation and insomnia. Additionally, those under heavy workplace stress may find themselves dealing with anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and shortness of temper.

Should you have any of these symptoms, they may be early warning signs that your stress levels are becoming unmanageable.

Managing workplace stress

In order to avoid having stress interfere with your workplace productivity and physical and mental health, it's important to understand how to mitigate these feelings. The best way to do this is to master a few steps or techniques you can use to keep stress at a bearable level.

To accomplish this, consider following stress-reducing steps:

  • Increase your activity level. Even modest amounts of exercise can release endorphins and make us feel better. This mental boost is one reason why running and walking are such tried-and-true stress-relieving activities. Even moderate exercise, such as a walk around the block, can provide a quick lift.
  • Clean up your diet. It's understandable that we tend to turn to comfort foods when dealing with stress. Unfortunately, high-fat, low nutrition meals can make us lethargic and less capable of managing daily stress.
  • Get enough rest. Sleep deprivation hasprofoundly negative effects on your physical and mental health. To help yourself get more rest, avoid drinking caffeine or performing stress-inducing activities or work right before bed.
  • Monitor your stress points. The APA suggests keeping a journal of stressors. By recording this information, you can identify activities or situations that exacerbate your stress and work to break any stress-inducing habits.
  • Develop an "anti-stress" routine. This might be as simple as quiet music or reading, or it could involve meditation or breathing exercises. The key is to develop a routine that helps you slow down and head off stress before it reaches critical levels.
  • Reach out to supervisors or seek help from a professional. If things progress to a point where you can no longer manage stress effectively on your own, you may need to ask for assistance. Modern workplaces are invested in employee wellness, so there may be a stress-relief program you can join or some other form of therapy. Remember, it's better to address these problems in an active fashion rather than waiting until your performance begins to slide.

The takeaway

By implementing steps such as these, you can learn to cope with the stressors of the workplace -- something that will lead to a happier and more productive life outside the office.


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