People often ask me, “How can I reduce stress at work?” The good news is that the mind has a hard time telling the difference between what is real or well-imagined. We have all heard that perception is reality. So, let’s use our imagination to our advantage rather than disadvantage and create many ways we can reduce stress at work.
Listen to your surroundings and convince yourself that you actually enjoy the organization’s buzz. Imagine you are living in a city that doesn’t sleep and let the hustle and bustle of the office provide the background noise that generates and sustains the energy. There will be plenty of stressful situations to address at work, let those episodes be simply part of the soundtrack of work life.
If you are working at home, find ways to modify the background noise. Some people find it pleasant to have soft music playing in the background. For others, the hum of a de-humidifier works for them. You can turn on a sound machine and listen to birds singing, ocean waves crashing on the beach, or light rain falling on the roof. Whatever works for you, use it.
It is always a good idea to keep a decision-making model close at hand to help you confidently make decisions quickly and effectively. Problem solving is part of your job and having an objective decision-making model will balance negative thoughts, job stress, and mental health. Having a problem-solving method reduces stress in the workplace and the overall levels of stress within a team or department.
Problem solving skills are critical for reducing stress in the workplace. Never forget, you wouldn’t have a job if there weren’t any problems. Your organization believes in you and your common sense, so, maybe you should, too. Having a calendar and a master task list along with a simple problem-solving formula will relieve stress both at work and in your personal life. Being unable to solve problems or make decisions is a sign of psychological fatigue caused by stress.
Practice mindfulness and try focusing on your emotions and processing them. Thoughts create feelings. Monitor your thinking and self-talk and revise the messages to wash away any negative thoughts and reduce stress. After collecting your thoughts and after careful consideration you may see there are ways to modify workload and take back some control.
People usually follow up with this question, “What are three ways to handle stress?”
One: Learn to appreciate the benefit of a morning routine to reduce stress. Create a morning routine, even if you are working from home. Consider doing whatever you typically did to get “work ready” – wake up time, shower, get dressed up, coffee, breakfast, etc. If you are working from home, pretend like you are going into the office, get out of your house or apartment, stop at the coffee shop, and then return to your home office and get to work.
Two: Define boundaries: At the office establish regular work hours and share your schedule. To manage distractions, consider some visual cues such as roping off space, posting red or green sticky-notes, post an erasable board with your schedule, or prominently post a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Implement some of the same strategies if you are working from home, too. Discuss with family and friends your regular work hours, talk with the kids about what they can do and can’t do, and discuss emergency issues.
Three: Get ready the night before. Put gas in the car or plug in your car, charge up your mobile devices, lay out the clothes you are going to wear the next day, and plan your breakfast. Look up and put into practice strategies for getting a good night’s rest. Create a night-time regimen. Devise a method for winding down. Read a book that calms you or read a few pages from a joke book that changes your train of thought. Some researchers claim what you read before you sleep causes different dreams while you sleep.
Sometimes people ask me, “How can I reduce stress and anxiety at work?” Write down everything that is bothering you. Once you have written down everything that is bugging you, ask yourself this question for each one, “Is this controllable?” Do I have some impact? Do I have some influence? Can I do something about it? Then, take a few deep breaths and take-action: schedule a meeting, make a phone call, send an email, and move those stressful situations along and feel the relief.
The next thing to do to reduce stress and anxiety at work is to practice good time management skills to help relieve stress both at work and in your personal life. Some researchers claim 40% of the stress we feel is caused by poor time management. So, develop a time management system. Prioritizing is the key to effective time management. Take a look at a task or activity and consider if it is intrinsically important, deadline driven, able to be delegated, and estimate how much time is required. Good time management is doing first things first and second things not at all. It is your ability to make decisions that gives you the ability to control your time and your life.
Warning signs that someone is under too much stress in the workplace are minor changes in behavior. Whether it is the tone of their email correspondence, the sound of their phone messages, negative word choice, harsh vocal tone, aggressive posture, or painful facial expressions; any slight change is a warning sign.
There are several reasons people experience high levels of stress at work: deadline-driven projects, other peoples’ inability to plan, technology issues, interpersonal dynamics, customer demands, and the list goes on and on. Anticipate that these trigger events will create stressful situations and stress in the workplace. Don’t be surprised by these events, instead be prepared and respond rather than react.
Some ways people can avoid negative thoughts and promote positive mental health in stressful situations include positive visualization; instead of imagining things are going to go bad, imagine everything will turn out just fine. Practice positive affirmations by paying yourself a compliment when no one else is. Create a past accomplishments reference; a list of twenty-five past accomplishments to remind yourself of your history of success.
Every day will have different levels of stress to manage. You can reduce job stress, by taking breaks throughout the day and by deep breathing several times during your breaks. Consider phoning a friend or family member that is supportive. Consider striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know very well; that’s always interesting. Walk up a down a flight of stairs or get outside a get some fresh air.
Please consider the following suggestions. The stress management activities in this article will help relieve stress, support mental health, and minimize negative thoughts.
If you need to find a motivational keynote speaker, plenary speaker, breakout speaker, concurrent session speaker, seminar leader, or workshop facilitator who can deliver in-person, virtually, or via prerecorded session, Kit Welchlin earned an M.A. (Master of Arts Degree in Speech Communication), the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional Designation from the National Speakers Association), the CVP (Certified Virtual Presenter Designation from eSpeakers), and is a nationally recognized professional motivational speaker and author and can be found at www.welchlin.com.