How to Battle Work Stress and Anxiety
We’ve all been there. When heat suddenly rushes over your skin as another deadline approaches. The clock is ticking and, ‘oh my god, why am I sweating so much, I don’t have time to sweat!’ Stress is back, rearing his ugly head, and even the noise-canceling headphones you splurged on aren’t 100% effective at quelling the beast. As much as you’d like them to be, they aren’t actually a bluetooth cloak of invisibility.
If you have a job, then learning how to better manage work-related stress can benefit your overall physical and mental health.
If A, then B. (This is where I refrain from going on a tangent about how much practicing the scientific method in the Google Ads space can benefit your results in PPC marketing. That’ll have to be a different blog post.) It’s simple as that, right?
Managing work stress is easier said than done, and there are many people out there who would argue that “a little stress is good for you.” Researchers at UC Berkeley, for instance, sought to prove just that when they observed that significant, albeit brief, stressful events caused stem cells in rat brains to proliferate into new nerve cells! This ultimately improved long term mental performance when compared to control group of rats that did not receive intermittent stress stimuli . It’s also just a colloquial saying, but I like science.
So! How much work stress is too much work stress?
What are Work Stress Symptoms
First off, we need to sort out what the symptoms of work stress look like. Signs of work stress can be physical, psychological, and behavioral. The hot skin mentioned above could be related to heart palpitations. Other physical symptoms include muscle tension, sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia, gastrointestinal upsets (🚫💩/🤮/💩💩), headaches, and fatigue.
Psychological symptoms of work stress are serious, and range from depression, to cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions, to anxiety. Further still, it’s not exactly a new school of thought that workplace bullying can cause post traumatic stress disorder , across individuals, regardless of whether or not they had or did not have any pre-existing mental health conditions .
Behavioral symptoms include lower tolerance of frustration and impatience in others, diminished creativity and initiative, and a drop in work performance. Some people may experience disturbances with coworkers, like the desire to isolate from team members, or outright aggression.
Three Ways to Handle Work Stress
Recognize any of the above symptoms? If so, you’re not alone! According to this visually appealing study by the American Psychological Association, the 2016 election alone sent well over half of the country into a stress-induced tailspin (perfect opportunity for another tangent here, but I shall abstain). Throw in having a job (and a kid or more), and no doubt you’ve got a lot on your plate. According to the study, “money” and “work” were two of the top three reported sources of stress across Americans.
I can’t claim to know how to take away your stress, dear reader, but here are some ways to manage work-related stress in the New Year, and create a clearer head-space to get realigned with your career goals in 2019.
1. Battle Stress by Getting Organized
I challenge you, right now, to take out a piece of paper (or a digital sticky note, whatever your nerd heart desires), and write down all the priorities you’ve got buzzing around your mind. Now prioritize!
- What needs to get done today?
- What needs to get done first? If you work at an agency like Webfor, you know that managing a double-digit load of clients can, at times, get tangled. Take a breath, and prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
- What needs to get done this week?
- If you’re like me, you undoubtedly wrote down way too much for what needs to get done ‘today’. Take a load off! Some things really can be moved around to later dates. No matter how looming the deadline may feel, if you manage your time well, and honestly express how much time you need to get the job done right, you can meet your goals.
- What can wait til next week?
- Have a little foresight, and plan ahead. Coming into work on a Monday to a completely empty calendar, yet knowing you actually have a huge task list, can make anyone want to shut down their computer and head home. Unfortunately, life isn’t that easy (unless, maybe, you’re the type with a relative able to give you a ‘small loan’ of one million dollars, etc.).
I know, it’s hard to accept right now, but things can wait! You are just one fleshy imperfect human, after all. When you agree to a deadline or a timeline you know you can’t meet, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s better to be honest now, than to apologize later. Not every deadline can be a negotiation, but it will save you hours of anxiety if you can be honest upfront and work at a manageable pace.
2. Mitigate Work Anxiety with Yoga and Meditation
Maybe I’ve lost some of you by this point, who are thinking work stress is being made to sound too severe to be realistic (even with scholarly articles present). But here’s the thing, even if you absolutely love your job, you’re going to experience work stress! It’s not always going to be life-altering, or triggering, but let’s all take step one here and admit that, yes, every now and again, work stress just happens. Can we all agree it’s better to reduce stress at the source, than to let it build? Here’s another hypothesis for you.
If you don’t manage high stress levels, then negative health outcomes may arise.
One way to grow more resistant to these negative health outcomes is to pick up a healthy, physical hobby. There’s plenty of support out there for yoga aiding people reduce symptoms of stress , and some studies even provide evidence that the practice helps you become more resilient to future stress .
The best part? Workplace wellness programs including yoga are becoming more and more common, with a certified yoga instructor teaching optional classes during the workday. These programs utilize the office to affect employee health outcomes, and if well-designed, can also provide benefits to the business—such as reduction in health insurance claims, reduced worker absenteeism, and improved employee morale.
What else is so great about yoga? You can practice yoga right at your desk.
If the thought of busting out a seated eagle in front of your coworkers makes you cringe, try something more subtle on for size: Meditation! With apps like Headspace, downloads on Audible, or *free* YouTube videos, there are countless easy ways for you to get started with meditation. You’ve heard all the positive effects, you may even have seen a coworker practicing meditation with the Pomodoro Technique across the room, so why not give it a try?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be yoga, but find something that gets you moving. Physical activity is great for reducing stress, so find what you like, and make it a hobby. That in and of itself, just showing up for yourself over and over, is a yogic practice. So show up! Your body and your mind will thank you.
3. Get to the Root of the Issue
Beyond organizing your calendar, organize your thoughts on why you are experiencing work stress. What do you need to feel happier at work? It could be as simple as a more comfortable chair, to something more complex, like asking for a raise, or proposing a new employee benefit. Write it all down, and prioritize. It may be due time you schedule a one-on-one with your manager or HR person, and voice your concerns. That’s the only way to work towards a company culture you can thrive in.
Benefits of Handling Workplace Stress
Benefits of work-related stress management are countless. Amongst them are personal benefits, like increased productivity, greater job satisfaction, improved mental health symptoms, and less sickness over time. There are also benefits to the employer: reduced costs to the employer through reduced employee turnover, and reduced absenteeism.
If you’re not working at a company that cares about it’s employees, it may be time to look into new opportunities that prioritize your career aspirations and your personal wellness.