4 Ways to Manage Stress at Work and Build a Better Work/Life Balance
Work can be stressful. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that we just have to deal with. If you’re like me and hate stress (and who really doesn’t hate stress?), you may have the impulse to avoid stress by switching jobs or taking on less responsibility.
But if you can develop ways to manage stress and reduce its impact on your mind and life, you'll free up your mental energy to pursue those loftier career goals you may have, like a promotion, or volunteering to lead that big project.
Learning how to cope with and manage stress is an important life skill. Keep in mind that as you climb the career ladder, stress will only increase. Data collected by LinkedIn shows that as individuals move up the ladder within an organization, the more likely their stress levels will increase.
Here are 4 tactics that will help you reduce stress at your job.
1. Address the root of the problem
Whenever there is a problem at work that is causing you stress, rather than focusing solely on solving that problem and how stressed you feel, try to understand the root of the problem and address that. I like to think of what I call “future-oriented” solutions. A future-oriented solution addresses the root of a problem so that the same problem doesn’t reoccur in the future. By dealing with the source of the stress and implementing a future-oriented solution, rather than just trying to manage the stress and get through it, you'll create a less stressful environment for yourself overall, because there will be fewer problems to begin with, making your work-life better in the long run.
For example, say you're feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work you have on your plate. Don't focus on how much work you have and how stressed out that makes you feel. Focus on time management and workload management to help you navigate the work more smoothly in the first place, before it begins to pile up and cause stress.
Ask yourself, what’s the future-oriented solution here?
Maybe you need to have a discussion with your boss so they can help buffer the assignments coming your way.
Maybe you need to make the case to hire additional staff.
Maybe you need to start being more proactive about communicating what's on your plate and when you can get things done.
There are a variety of ways to solve the problem, but the most important thing is that you get to the root of what's causing it and implement a future-oriented solution. When you address the root of the problem, you'll prevent it from coming up again in the future, repeatedly causing more stress for you.
2. Identify sticking points and address them before they become urgent problems
If you can anticipate the situations that are likely to become sources of stress and address them before they become problems, you will avoid those after-hours work emails from your boss and others asking you to fix something that's become an urgent problem.
Whenever you can, try thinking two steps ahead. This can be hard to do, especially if you've been operating in firefighting mode for a while, addressing problems as they happen, and not implementing future-oriented solutions. Once you get used to thinking ahead, you'll be able to spot potential pit-falls and address them in the course of your normal work so that projects run more smoothly to begin with, and you have fewer urgent "fire-drills."
3. Focus on what is within your control
This is a big one, and it can be the hardest to internalize. Don't let other people's problems stress you out. Focus on doing the work you are responsible for and helping others within the scope of your job and position. Don't stress out about things that are not within the scope of your work and your control. If you have the tendency to get stressed about something that you can't directly control, ask yourself this question: Have I done everything that I can and should do within the scope of my position? If the answer to that question is yes, then you can move on. If the answer is no, evaluate what steps you can take to address the problem. This may be as simple as briefing your boss or informing another colleague that may have more control over the situation.
4. Be conscious of the “work churn” you're producing
If you send an email with a set of action items or things that need a response to a group of colleagues or your boss at 5:00 PM, just before you want to leave, don't be surprised if people start responding, and before you know it, you're answering emails into the evening.
As a rule, I try not to send important emails containing deliverables out to colleagues at the end of the day, unless they're specifically urgent. Because, let's face it, odds are that if it could wait until the end of the day, it can wait until the next morning. The difference between 5:00 PM one day and 9:00 AM the next is not that vast, especially when those hours in-between are technically off the clock.
So yes, stress is unavoidable, but that doesn't mean that you have to accept all the stress from your job as inevitable. I hope that you can use some of these tactics to help manage it better and achieve a happier work/life balance.
How do you manage stress? Have you tried any of these tactics? Message me here!