Our electronic culture runs 24/7 now. E-mail, cell phones, and instant messaging often demand immediate attention. Laptops and handheld gadgets keep you connected to the office from everywhere.
So it's no wonder that today's employees have more stress at work than yesterday's workers.
Meeting the demands of customers, co-workers, and bosses can be a challenge. But the line between a healthy challenge and unhealthy job stress is often blurred.
In one survey, 3 of every 4 respondents listed work as a significant source of stress. About half said stress does the following:
- Decreases productivity
- Ruins vacations
- Motivates them to look for new jobs
- Interferes with family time
Ways to keep stress at bay
Don't ignore job stress. In time, it can wear the body down and can increase the risk of injury and disease. You can manage stress through relaxation techniques, counseling, exercise, assertiveness training, and improving social skills. Or try these coping strategies:
- Take breaks. Take breaks of 10 to 15 minutes every few hours. Stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, or close your eyes to release tension. Short breaks between tasks can help you feel like you've finished one thing before moving on to the next. Do not work through lunch.
- If you feel angry, walk away. Count to 10. Look at the situation again. Walking and exercise can help blow off steam. If tension persists, try breathing deeply.
- Manage your time better. It's hard to stay calm and focused when you're stretched too thin and running behind. Plan ahead with a schedule and priority lists. Break projects into small steps.
- "Manage" a difficult boss or colleague. Stress could cause a usually reasonable boss or colleague to become hard to work with. Separate your personal ego from your business persona. Don't react emotionally or defensively. Communicate your concerns in a positive way. If his or her behavior always seems hostile, get advice from a mentor or human resources professional.
- Review your job description. Get a written description of your responsibilities and specific performance expectations. Both you and your boss should have a copy.
- Learn to say "no." Make people aware that it is hard to accept more responsibilities when you're close to reaching your limit. Remind people that the quality of your work may suffer if you are overloaded.
- Delegate and train. People often believe they are the only ones who can do a job. In the long run, it does not take more time to teach someone else than to always do it yourself.
- Learn from the past. Having the same fight over and over can build frustration. Talking with someone about what they have done in similar spots can help.
- Use positive self-talk. Make a mental or written list of your strengths to help you feel in control. Think positively and pat yourself on the back for any achievements.
- How much will this matter in a year? A "global" perspective can make stressful situations seem minor.
Remember that you always have options. If you like your workplace, but your job is too stressful, ask to move to a different position. If you think the stress is affecting your health and relationships and there is no prospect of real change, it may be best to move on.
Created on 03/25/2008
Updated on 05/12/2011
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Stress...at work.
- American Psychological Association. Stress tip sheet.
- American Psychological Association. Don't let workplace stress ruin your labor day holiday.
- American Psychological Association. Stress in the workplace.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Working with stress.