Do not let stress come between you and a successful, rewarding career.
Many people experience stress in their jobs. It might be temporarily because of a project deadline, or because of seasonal fluctuations in your workload. You might also experience long-term stress due to the nature of your role, a difficult boss or co-worker, or because of office politics. Job stress has many negative consequences. If you leave it unmanaged, it can affect your health, productivity, well-being, and career.
You maintain your professionalism, composure, and workplace relationships by managing your stress levels, and learning to survive and thrive in a stressful role.
In this article, we look at ways of identifying job stress and explore strategies that you can use to manage a stressful job successfully.
How to Identify Your Current Stress Levels
There may be physical symptoms and psychological effects to serve as warning signs that you are experiencing high levels of workplace stress.
Psychologically, you may be irritable, depressed, and experience prolonged difficulty concentrating. If continuous stress starts to cause burnout, you may also find that you lose interest in your work and other activities. You may also become socially withdrawn.
A manageable level of pressure can help you to perform at your best. However, if pressure increases to a point where you no longer feel in control, the result is stress. Unlike pressure, stress is never positive.
How to Manage a Stressful Job
The following sections look at several ways to manage stress in your role.
Before managing stress, you first have to know what causes it.
Work is often one of the main causes of stress in people's lives. Research has identified heavy workload as one of the major causes of stress. Other causes of workplace stress can be grouped according to four main underlying causes identified below:
Time stress develops from a fast-paced working environment with unrealistic deadlines. As a result, productivity, relationships, and well-being suffer.
Anticipatory stress is stress about the future. It may be due to a specific event, such as a scheduled presentation. Or, it might be a more general fear about the future. Many people suffer anticipatory stress about their employment security, for example.
Situational stress is caused by situations over which you have no control. These may be acute incidents, such as a sudden failure of a supply line, or longer-term issues, such as lack of autonomy or purpose at work. Unreasonably heavy workload also comes under this category
Encounter stress derives from interaction with other people. Poor management, bullying, and dealing with angry or difficult people can all be sources of encounter stress.
Once you have identified the factors that contribute to your stress, you can take appropriate steps to manage them.
Find Meaning in Your Job
What do you love most about your job? What gives your work meaning and purpose?
These questions might sound simple, but they are pertinent. If you know what gives your work meaning, you are more likely to develop intrinsic motivation.
This motivation comes from knowing that what you do has value in its own right. It can help you to manage the stress that goes along with the work you do, and to build resilience when you're feeling down.
Assess Your Skills and Resources
Look at the work that you do: What are your biggest frustrations? Where are you most inefficient in? Where are your bottlenecks?
These situations often point to a lack of tools, resources, skills development, or help – all of which can contribute to workplace stress. You need to keep your skill set under continual review, particularly if your organization is developing new ways of working.
You also need the right equipment and know how to use it. Make a list of what you need. Let your boss know what you are lacking, and explain how these items will improve your productivity and effectiveness. If your boss cannot provide the resources you need, think about how you might negotiate for them with others or acquire them on your own.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage a stressful job. Daily exercise helps you to cope with stress. It can also help to boost your memory, creativity, IQ, and productivity.
You can fit exercise into your schedule in many ways: wake up slightly earlier and exercise before work, or take a walk on your lunch break.
Take frequent breaks to move around and let your mind rest. Try taking several five- or 10-minute walks during the day. It might not sound like much, but this exercise and fresh air will give you time to rest and recharge.
Your attitude plays a role in your stress, no matter your job.
You can choose to approach tasks, responsibilities, and people with a negative attitude, or you can do so with a positive mindset. Although the amount of work is the same, the impact on your health and well-being is profound.
Whenever you catch yourself slipping into a negative frame of mind, make an effort to challenge your conceptions and to think positively instead. Challenge your negative thoughts with rational, fact-based thinking.
Manage Your Time
If struggling with a heavy workload or project deadlines, you can lower your stress levels and improve productivity by managing your time more effectively.
Distractions in the office can be a major source of stress. These distractions can come from well-meaning colleagues, constant phone calls or emails, or general office noise. Distractions can be minimized by turning off your phone or putting on an earphone to drown out people’s conversations.
Manage Your Priorities
Conflicting priorities can also be stressful, especially when you feel like you are constantly handling urgent tasks. Learn to focus on what is important, not just urgent.
It's also important to work out what activities can have the biggest impact. Identify such tasks, and see if you can safely delegate others.
If working on a project that seems overwhelming, break it into smaller steps. This allows you to accomplish one thing at a time instead of taking everything on at once.
Find Ways to Stay Calm
Stress can often cause you to stop breathing for several seconds, even though you may not realize it. When feeling stressed, practice deep breathing exercises. Deep, slow breathing floods your body with oxygen, slowing your heart rate, relaxing your muscles, and helping you to focus.