In today’s hectic world, the workplace can often seem like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, ever increasing demands, unpleasant customers, difficult bosses—these can all leave you feeling worried, uncertain, and overwhelmed by stress.
While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance—and impact your physical and emotional health.
Your ability to deal with stress may mean the difference between success and failure in any kind of work, and can affect the health of your relationships outside the workplace.
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What Causes Workplace Stress
Common causes of workplace stress are:
- Fear of being laid off
- Increased workload due to layoffs
- Difficult or demanding boss
- Difficult or demanding clients/customers
- Pressure to meet rising expectations
You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Whatever your work demands or ambitions, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress and improve your job satisfaction.
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What Can You Do About Workplace Stress
- Initiate positive relationships. Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Socializing makes you smile and laugh, all great forms of stress relief. You may not have a close buddy at work, but you can take steps to be more sociable with your coworkers. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smart phone or tablet, try engaging your colleagues. Simply sharing your thoughts and feelings with another person can help reduce or control stress. This is especially true if you have a difficult boss—knowing it isn’t just you can help you feel better.
- Get moving. Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat—is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Try walking, dancing, swimming. For best results, try to get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days. When stress is mounting at work, try to take a quick break and move away from the stressful situation. Take a stroll outside the workplace if possible. Physical movement can help you regain your balance.
- Eat and well. Your food choices can have a huge impact on how you feel during the workday. Eating small, frequent and healthy meals, for example, can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keeping your energy and focus up, and avoiding mood swings.
- Get enough sleep. Not only can stress and worry can cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you’re well rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. Try to improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a regular sleep schedule and aiming for 8 hours a night.
- Prioritize and organize. When job and workplace stress threatens to overwhelm you, there are simple, practical steps you can take to regain control over the situation.
- Plan regular breaks. Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or chat to a friendly face. Also try to get away from your desk or work-station for lunch. It will help you relax and recharge and be more, not less, productive.
- Prioritize tasks. Tackle high-priority tasks first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Let of the desire to control every little step. You’ll be letting of unnecessary stress in the process.
- Resist perfectionism. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, you’re setting yourself up to fall short. Aim to do your best, no one can ask for more than that.
- Flip your negative thinking. Try to think positively about your work, avoid negative-thinking co-workers, and pat yourself on the back about small accomplishments, even if no one else does.
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things at work are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Finally, look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress in the workplace. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or funny story.
About UPMC Harrisburg
UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.