Most of us have experienced work stress at one point or another. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 percent of working people say that their job is the primary stressor in their lives. Stress can affect productivity at work and take a toll on personal relationships and emotional and physical health.
8 Ways to Balance Work Stress
Although you can’t always prevent work stress, there are steps you can take to make it more manageable. Here are a handful of ways to maintain a healthy balance:
- Get enough sleep. Most people need between 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day.
- Eat a balanced diet. Stress can weaken your immune system and increase your body’s need for certain nutrients, so eat right to stave off fatigue and sickness. Eating well also can help you stay focused, energized, and healthy as you encounter stress at work.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise not only relieves anxiety, but it also provides you with the energy you’ll need to deal with new issues as they arise.
- Set boundaries when possible. Some obstacles at work probably can’t be avoided, but you have the power to set your own boundaries. Every once in a while, turn your smartphone off and take a break.
- Take a walk. During unavoidable late nights or hectic periods, make it a point to walk around the block every few hours to clear your head and move your muscles.
- Take a breather. If an interaction with a client or your boss leaves you anxious, depressed, or angry, take a moment to walk away and practice deep breathing until you feel calmer and can return to the conversation.
- Maintain a work-life balance. Make weekend plans that don’t involve work, such as a bike ride or a picnic in the park with friends.
- Try not to bring your work home with you. If you must, set aside personal time as well. It’s easy to burn out if you don’t stop to evaluate how you feel.
4 Tips for Battling the Sunday Blues
Many people experience the “Sunday blues,” a feeling of dread that creeps up on Sunday in anticipation of starting the work week. The weekend is only two days long—don’t let one of them be taken over by anxiety! Here are some pointers to help keep the blues at bay:
- Consider the cause of your anxiety. Does it stem from a specific challenge, such as an upcoming deadline, or is it a general feeling of dread of going in to work? If it’s the former, you can prepare for it, but if it’s the latter, it may be time to explore how you can improve your current situation.
- Prepare for Monday on Friday. Don’t leave for Monday (or Sunday) what you can finish on Friday! Prepare for that deadline; make that call. You’ll sleep better knowing you’ll have a lighter load on Monday.
- Do something on Sunday that fulfills an emotional need. Are you lonely? Plan a day with a group of friends. Are you anxious? Meet a friend for a run in the park.
- Plan something on Monday to look forward to. Plan on going to your favorite yoga class or watching your favorite show after work, and think about it as you drift off to sleep.
Is It Work Stress or Depression?
It’s important to be able to distinguish between general work stress and anxiety or depression. If the feeling of dread is constant and lasts longer than one day, it may be time to take action. Do you feel as if you have no control or are “trapped” in your job? Do you feel like you’re in a “dead-end” job or one that isn’t in line with your current goals? Being in a job or career that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you can create a great deal of work performance anxiety. Likewise, a manager who is inexperienced or one who micromanages can leave you feeling powerless and overwhelmed about your abilities at work.
All of these situations may precipitate feelings of constant anxiety or depression. Symptoms of anxiety and depression include: loss of interest in work and social activities; trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; difficulty concentrating; irritability; muscle tension; GI problems; and using alcohol or drugs as a coping tool. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to make a change. Here are a few steps that may help:
- Talk to your manager about how you’re feeling. Be clear and concise about your goals and needs. Can your needs be met? If you’re an independent business owner, join a professional group for support and advice.
- Update your resumé. Even if your manager is willing to work with you, this is the time to re-evaluate and prepare for your next step.
- Research jobs. Write down your interests. What you would do if there were no obstacles to finding a job that aligned with those interests? If your manager won’t work with you, you’ll need to start looking for your next job. Do you want to change fields? What are you passionate about?
- Start applying for jobs. This is a “light-at-the-end-of the-tunnel” tactic. When you take steps toward a solution, you can regain hope, which in turn makes your current situation start to feel less daunting.
- Allow yourself to feel in control. Boost your own morale by preparing yourself to embrace future opportunities when they become available. Keep your resumé current and pull together documentation of your achievements, such as performance reviews, awards, or emails from clients complimenting you on a job well done.
- Seek professional help when you need it. If, after trying to make progress on your own, you still feel hopeless and your symptoms aren’t improving, consider professional help.
Good stress can actually help to motivate you at work, but when work stress becomes constant and starts to affect your health, it’s time to re-evaluate. No one likes the Sunday blues, let alone feeling completely overwhelmed, but if you find yourself in either of these situations, acknowledge how you feel and use it as an opportunity to examine and improve your situation.