You feel the need to commit that 2020 is the year you stress less about work? That the demanding deadlines, long hours, and email notifications will not get you down?
It’s a great goal, and one you likely have in common with a lot of people; a survey by the American Psychological Association revealed that 61 percent of respondents found work to be a source of stress.
But resolutions are best kept with a plan of action in your inbox, so we reached out to experts for tips on tackling work-related tension this year.
A) Use Breaks Strategically
If stress is getting the best of you during your daily 09:00 to 17:00, Kaplan suggested using your breaks strategically.
Instead of eating your lunch at your desk,
- perhaps switch up your environment and take a walk outside to grab a bite,
- call a friend,
- read a chapter of a book, or even
- practice some deep breathing exercises
“Breaks are important, so anything you can do to give your mind a break during your breaks can help the rest of the work day seem more manageable,” Kaplan said.
The crucial thing to remember: avoid staying at your desk and try not to check your email during your break.
B) Remember What You Enjoy About Work
Perhaps you hate Excel spreadsheets — the tension headaches are your consistent clue. But what about work do you love . . . or at least like? Take some time to reflect on that question.
Often when people are bogged down by stress at work it’s hard to remember what you actually enjoy about your job, Amy Kaplan, LCSW and a psychotherapist with PlushCare, said.
“Write down things that you like about your job, and then ways you can augment these positive things during your day.”
Can’t think of anything you truly like about your job? Kaplan suggested thinking about whether a new job would be possible for you, and if so, making a plan for that change.
C) Reflect on Your Work Stress
It’s easy to get lost in a flurry of stress. To address what’s causing your tension, Dr. Sherry Benton, the founder and chief science officer at TAO Connect, suggested taking a step back from it all and reflecting on the specific cause of your work stress.
- Is your cube mate’s attitude getting the best of you?
- Do you have enough time to complete your projects?
- Is it simply all your unread emails?
Once you identify the source of your stress, ask yourself some of these questions: what am I telling myself about the situation? Are my thoughts proportional to what’s really happening, or are my thoughts exaggerating the situation? Is there anything about the situation I can change? What is actually within my control and what isn’t? said Dr. Benton.
And by answering these questions, Dr. Benton said you’ll be better able to modify the thoughts causing your stress.
D) Stop Taking Work Stress Home
Leaving work stress at work is harder than it sounds, but Kaplan said that rearranging your end-of-day routine could help.
“Before you go home, tie up whatever loose ends you can and double check your schedule for the next day before walking out the door,” she said.
Then, as you’re on your way home from work, get your mind off of work projects. Kaplan suggested listening to music or calling a friend to catch up. Another option is fitting in another activity before heading home — go to the gym or schedule a regular meeting with friends. This way, you’ll be in a better head space before stepping into your home.
You’ll want to actually leave your assignments at work, too.
“Designate ‘protected time’ for friends, family, and fun offline activities when you don’t have to think about work,” Kaplan said. If you are not on call and your job doesn’t depend on it, wait to return after-hours work emails and calls until you are scheduled back at work.
If you get in the habit of returning work calls or emails when you are off, that will become the expectation from your coworkers and it will make it more difficult for you to keep work stress from creeping home.
E) Utilize Stress-Reducing Tools
Boost your efforts by incorporating stress-reducing activities into your daily routine.
Dr. Benton suggested practicing mindfulness meditation to reduce your stress levels, as well as adding exercise to your fitness routine — outdoor exercise is particularly helpful, but even a walk can help.
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Aerobic exercise is one of the best types of exercise for reducing stress because the high-intensity output reduces the body’s stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, while producing endorphins, she said.
“When you write down your thoughts and see them on paper, you can better recognize what’s exaggerated or overly critical,” Dr. Benton noted. “From there, you can try modifying your thoughts to be more realistic and less exaggerated.”
Not sure how to get started? Dr. Benton suggested making a list of three things to be thankful for every day.
“They can be anything. Maybe you’re grateful for the person that held the door open for you or for the person that made your coffee,” she said. “When you find things to be thankful for and make a list, you’re changing the neural connections in your brain and offsetting stressful thoughts with an increased amount of positive and affirming thoughts.