Everyone experiences pressure and stress at their workplaces at some point. While a little bit of pressure can help you to perform better at work, a permanent state of stress will have a negative impact on your health and can cause a wide range of mental and/or physical problems. So if you feel stressed out regularly, read our tips and start taking action now:
- Track what triggers stress in you
Before you can start developing strategies to manage your stress effectively, you need to investigate your sources of stress. An easy way to do so is writing a stress diary. There you take notes on which situations, concerns or challenges cause stress and how you react. Thus, you can find patterns among your stressors and your reactions and it will help you identify the causes of stress in your life.
Take a few moments every day to make regular entries in a journal, for example, every two hours. In case you forget to take notes regularly you better set a timer to remind you.
Write down the following:
• Date and time
• What was the most recent stressful event you experienced?
• How do you feel on a scale from -10 to +10 (-10 equals the worst you’ve ever been and +10 is better than you have ever felt before)?
• How effectively are you working now from 0 (not effective at all) to 10 (the highest level of effectiveness you’ve ever achieved)
• What is the fundamental cause of your stress? Try to be as honest as possible.
• How well did you handle the event? Did your reaction help solve the problem or did it make things worse?
After a few days you can start analyzing your stress diary in order to take action:
• Mark the stress factors which came up frequently and those which were the most uncomfortable.
• Check your notes about the underlying causes and your assessments of how you handled the situation. Do you recognize problems that need to be fixed?
• List ways in which you can change situations that cause you stress for the better.
• Investigate your feelings in stressful situations and how they affected your contentment and effectiveness. Was there a middle level at which you were happiest and performed best?
- Develop healthy habits
Leading a healthy lifestyle will positively affect your ability to cope with stress. These factors help you preemptively because you will gain more self-confidence and increase your resilience. This way you stay more relaxed in stressful situations at work.
• Sleep enough: If you don’t get enough sleep your body will contain more stress hormones the next day. With 7-9 hours of sleep you are less likely to react irritated. You will be more patient and in a better mood. A good night’s sleep also helps you to tackle the day’s stress easier and improves your judgment.
• Eat a healthy diet: Instead of fighting stress with fast food, sweets or coffee you should eat as healthy as possible. Healthy food like complex carbs can be found in whole-grain breads and breakfast cereals. They boost your level of serotonin, which is a brain chemical that calms you down, and lower the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Many fruits contain vitamin C and thereby also reduce the amount of stress hormones.
• Maintain social relationships: Having strong and supportive relationships with other people will reduce the impact of stress as well. Just knowing that there’s someone who listens to you, with whom you can share your concerns or who you can ask for advice, can give you a sense of peace. Social support reduces the stress hormones and helps to lower your blood pressure.
• Exercise: Any kind of physical exercise helps you reduce stress by increasing your overall health and your well-being. Sporting activities stimulate the release of endorphins (hormones that fight stress) and reduce the levels of your body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Moving your body also diminishes acute stress, because while focusing on a fast game of tennis or a few lanes in the swimming pool you get your mind off your problems and clear your head.
- Learn anti-stress techniques
Learning relaxing techniques will help you not only in acute stressful situations but also in coping with stress in the long run. Practice the methods regularly even on good days so you have them on hand whenever you face difficulties.
• Deep breathing exercises: Breathing exercises can be done anywhere and anytime as they require no equipment. Sit or lie comfortable and breath in deeply through your nose. Place one hand on your belly and feel it fill with air. Breath out completely through your mouth while telling yourself mentally “Relax”. Repeat as long as you have time or until you feel calmer.
• Mindfulness: Mindfulness is all about being fully present in the moment, completely and non-judgmentally rooted in the now. One effective mindfulness technique is focusing on all sounds in your environment. You can also do an internal body scan. Start at your toes and move up with you awareness to investigate how every single part of your body feels.
• Meditation: You will feel focused and more centered if you practice meditation. Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit or lie down. Close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Trace every breath and pay attention to how each one changes and is different. Watch your thoughts come and got without ignoring, suppressing or judging.
If these tips don’t help, talk to your supervisor. Have an open conversation about all the tasks you have to do and the deadlines you have to meet. Together you come up with a plan for managing your stressors effectively by clarifying what’s expected from you, using elements from time management, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues.
In case your supervisor doesn’t understand you or doesn’t want to help you, it’s time to move on and find a new job, for example at Jobseeker On Board.
About the author:
Katharina Papenbreer works for Locanto in Marketing and Communications. Locanto is a worldwide platform for local classifieds. There you find used furniture, cars, apartments, even guitar lessons and so much more.