Work-related stress is a genuine problem, whether you are an office employee, remote freelancer, or a digital nomad. While some jobs are naturally more stressful than others, all lines of work carry some level of pressure.
Perhaps your role involves meeting tight deadlines, managing a team, or dealing with tricky clients. Or maybe your workload is continuously increasing, and you find yourself struggling to stay calm and centered amongst the chaos. Regardless of the cause, everyone should know how to handle and minimize work stress.
Why managing stress is essential
Some stress can be good for us, as it can make us more productive. However, this is only the case if the pressure is temporary, for example, if you have a deadline for a big project coming up.
However, when stress becomes prolonged, our nervous system suffers. Stress triggers what is known as the “fight or flight” response. Staying stuck in this state impairs our brain functioning, focus, problem-solving and prevents us from being able to relax and “switch off.” Therefore, work-related stress can be detrimental to our physical and mental health and work performance.
Without taking action to reduce your stress levels, you may burn out and even become sick. So, if your workload is causing you mental tension, here are five ways to unwind and ease your work worries.
- Plan your day
If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, you most likely start your day already stressed. To regain control, plan your daily schedule before beginning work in the morning, or better yet, the night before. The latter will put your mind at ease, increasing your chance of getting a good night’s sleep.
To plan your day, write down your top three priorities. You may have heard the famous quote from Steve Jobs; “Do not try to do everything, do one thing well.” The fewer things we focus on each day, the more likely we are to do them well.
Once you’ve identified your priorities, schedule an allocated time for each one. ‘Time blocking’ in this way can significantly reduce your stress when you feel like you don’t have enough time, as you can see on paper exactly what you need to do and when.
- Tackle your most difficult task first
When planning your day, schedule the task that is most stressing you out first. If something particular is playing on your mind, such as a difficult phone call you need to make, then it’s easy to put the task off. However, doing so will only prolong the stress it is causing.
Instead, schedule this as your first action of the day, so you have less time to worry about it. Once done, you’ll feel much more relaxed, and the rest of your day will likely become more pleasant.
- Take regular breaks
The belief that taking breaks is counterproductive is one of the biggest myths. What’s more, those that don’t schedule and take regular rest intervals are the ones that feel most stressed, less productive, and struggle to focus.
Whether you’re working from home or in an office, give yourself a 5-10 minutes break at least every two hours. Avoid working through lunch too. Instead, give yourself an extra-long lunch break to spend doing something you enjoy. This could be yoga, a workout, or some creative pursuit. If you do this, you’ll notice how much more relaxed you feel when you return to your work in the afternoon.
- Set boundaries
This one is important if you work remotely. When your home is your office, it’s easy to blend the boundaries between business and home life. As a result, you can easily find yourself working late into the evenings and through the weekends, neglecting your family duties, social life, and time for yourself.
To prevent this, set a boundary with yourself to stop working at a specific time each day, even if the work isn’t complete. Whatever is incomplete can be finished tomorrow. Do not allow your work to become the most crucial thing in your life.
- Schedule in self-care
If you’re exhausted from a busy day, you might want to do nothing apart from lying on the sofa watching TV. However, things like TV, Netflix, and alcohol are just distractions and are not effective ways to unwind and release stress. Instead, create an evening self-care routine to nourish your body and mind.
Yoga and meditation are scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety as the practices involve focusing on your breath. The simple act of conscious breathing signals to your mind and body that you are safe, which in turn, allows you to relax.
However, if yoga or meditation is not your thing, find a creative activity that calms your mind, such as journaling, drawing, or reading.
Stress is a common problem in our fast-paced society and as our workloads increase, so do our stress levels. However, these five tips will help you create a stress-free work life, which in turn will improve your mental (and physical) health and increase your job satisfaction.