By all accounts, we’ve become a nation of people desperately trying to manage stress overload. According to a 2022 survey from the American Psychological Association, the problem is so bad that around one-quarter of all adults can’t function because of high-stress levels. This is especially problematic for those working and trying to reach their career-related goals. Yet it’s possible to find balance by being proactive.
To be sure, work will always have some measure of stress. From angry clients and tech glitches to looming deadlines and budget constraints, stress is part and parcel of working in the modern world. However, stress can knock out even the most talented, normally productive employees when it overwhelms them.
Just how can stress manifest itself on the job? Reporting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that both chronic and acute stress can lead to poor worker physical and mental health, lowered job performance, and a greater risk of at-work errors. These are serious issues that can be life-threatening. Consequently, if you feel stressed, try taking the following steps.
1. Set up boundaries.
Many employees worked from home and practically around the clock during the pandemic. While it might have seemed reasonable to be available anytime your boss or colleagues needed you, it isn’t a good practice. Not having boundaries between your professional and personal lives leaves you at a greater chance to go throughout the day feeling “on call” and stressed out.
To begin establishing boundaries, talk to your manager. Explain that you will be doing all your work but want time. From that point, make it known to everyone you deal with when they can reach you — and when they can’t. At first, people may push your boundaries. Stay firm; you’ll carve out the downtime you deserve before long.
2. Nourish your body and mind.
Do you get enough sleep? Eat well? Exercise regularly? These can all be ways to lower your stress levels. Though being good to your body and brain won’t remove all your stressors, your actions will help you manage your stress responses. It’s much easier to look objectively at a situation when you’re well-rested and healthy.
Don’t force yourself to make sudden changes, though. Going on a diet or starting an intense workout can backfire and make you feel even worse. Slowly incorporate smarter habits into every day. For example, go to bed at a decent hour. Swap pita chips for potato chips. Take an after-work walk with your family. Little actions add up to big results. If you have medical concerns you haven’t addressed with a provider, now’s the time to schedule a visit.
3. Find a hobby you enjoy.
All work and no play isn’t just dull. It lulls you into a feeling of boredom. To stimulate your mind, you need pursuits outside of your occupation. These don’t have to be anything expensive, spectacular, or unusual. Reading for enjoyment at night or taking a painting class at a local arts center can spur creativity and excitement.
Of course, you never know where hobbies can take you. Many entrepreneurs have built businesses on their hobbies and outside interests. Therefore, you may get more than bargained for a stress reliever and potential new occupational path.
No one deserves to spend every waking hour in a stressful state. If you wake up with a knot in your stomach every morning, you have too much stress. Do whatever it takes to unravel that knot by treating yourself well and taking the measures necessary to enjoy work and life.
Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products such as work anniversary awards, branded merchandise, and athletic awards. Szczesny takes pride in EDCO’s ability to help companies go the extra mile in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees. He resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.