You probably know the signs of work-induced stress: they include fatigue, irritability, the inability to focus, insomnia and headaches, according to HelpGuide.org. Regain perspective by reminding yourself that your work should enhance your life, not destroy it. If you can't find a way to love what you do, find a way to do what you love. As the philosopher Confucius said, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."
Overwhelm is one of the major culprits of work stress, stemming from the fear that there is too much to do, and too little time. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to procrastination, which ultimately leads to not completing tasks and added stress. Accept that you can only do one thing at a time, but commit yourself to completing what you can, when you can. Before you leave work each evening, write a list of priorities to be handled the next day. Leave the list in plain sight so you’ll start each morning with a solid game plan. On your list, break large tasks down into small, manageable steps, so you can make it easier to start digging in first thing.
Distractions are an inevitable part of the work day. Between emails, chatty coworkers, coffee breaks and impromptu briefings, your attention is constantly pulled away from your main tasks. Rather than let them catch you by surprise, schedule distractions into your day so they remain under your control. Pencil in time for short, relaxing breaks. Planning short blocks of free time might improve your overall productivity, and decrease the stress caused from staring at a mountain of work while enduring yet another interruption.
Slow Your Pace
Though you might be tempted to power through, you are not a machine. Learn how to ask for help, delegate tasks to coworkers, or say no to additional duties. If your job won’t allow you to slow down, maybe you’re in the wrong job. Your health and peace of mind should be at the top of your priorities.
Although sugar and caffeine produce temporary spikes in energy, the subsequent crash can make you feel sluggish, jumpy and emotional. Exercise is a better energy booster than junk food, and produces happy-making endorphins. Eat healthful snacks at work, and take brisk walks to energize your mind. If you’re tired, slip away for a 20 minute nap to recharge your batteries.
Set Communication Blocks
Fielding every email, phone call and text message as it comes in can heighten work-related stress. Excess communication can make you feel over-stimulated, and it creates the appearance of busyness without actually getting anything done. Schedule time to check and respond to email and other forms of communication only once or twice per day.
Put Work First
Eliminate the feeling that time is getting away from you by dedicating the first hour of your day to work. Refrain from beginning your day with emails, catching up with co-workers or surfing the Internet, as those are behaviors that can set a tone of avoidance and procrastination that lingers throughout your shift. Use the first hour or two of your work day to gain headway on your hardest task. That way, no matter what happens, you have begun your day with a feeling of accomplishment.
Create an Oasis
No matter what drama the day brings, your work space should be a peaceful, relaxing oasis. Surround yourself with a few pleasant pictures, words and phrases that bring you joy. Play your favorite music, either on a small speaker or quiet headphones. Keep papers filed and clutter to a minimum. Stash a brain teaser toy or puzzle in your desk for a quick distraction that will clear your mind without stealing too much time.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.