Looking to boost your career and your happiness? Finding effective ways to cope with stress at work might be one of the most important skills you can cultivate.
You deserve to be happy at work. You really do. If you need more persuading, note that companies also benefit from having happy employees, in terms of both morale and a better bottom line.
Robert Half surveyed more than 12,000 professionals in North America, in collaboration with Happiness Works, to find out the secrets of the happiest companies and employees, and we learned some good news for marketing and creative professionals: You rank among the happiest of all professionals surveyed. Still, we don’t need to tell you that stress at work certainly exists and you need to know how to deal with it — whether it’s in the form of a demanding client, catty coworkers or intense deadline pressure. Here we offer nine tips for dealing with stress at work.
1. Manage your morning
How you begin your day often sets the tone for the rest of it. So, don't walk into work frazzled because you're feeling rushed and frustrated from your morning commute. Sound impossible? Make one or more of these changes and take note of the positive impacts:
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier — and leave the house 15 minutes earlier — if you’re perpetually stressed about beating the clock.
- Take the time to eat breakfast at home or bring grab-and-go options that you eat on the way to work or when you arrive.
- Don’t get slowed down or stressed out by your smartphone. If you must check personal email or social media before work, build in time to do so and limit yourself to a set time period. It may even help to set a timer.
- Try to stay calm during your commute. If you’re driving, give yourself ample time, find some tunes or a podcast that boosts your spirits and don’t let traffic stress you out. If you take public transportation, bring along something that relaxes you or gets you in a positive mindset for the day.
2. Take periodic breaks
Even if you work long hours, short breaks can offer big health benefits. If you find yourself tethered to your computer for hours at a time, even eating at your desk, try setting an alarm to force yourself to get up at regular intervals. Go on occasional head-clearing strolls, preferably outside. Stretch and do some light exercise. Refill your water bottle. Meet a coworker in the break room for a snack and some chitchat. And choose healthy snacks that will give you sustained energy. If you stay ramped up on caffeine and sugar, you’re bound to crash, which will only amplify your stress.
3. Practice mindfulness
Live (and work) in the moment. Mindfulness is about being actively attentive to your situation and your mental and physical responses to it. In other words, not letting job stress control your life. Learning about mindfulness and adopting a mindful approach can help you remain calm and centered in the face of even the biggest stressors at work. A few intentional changes, such as mentally preparing for your day, running more mindful meetings and actively practicing stress management, can go a long way toward making the workplace experience less stressful.
4. Make a conscious effort to laugh
Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air while stimulating your heart, lungs and muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic. It also increases the number of endorphins released by your brain. In addition, humor helps you build rapport with colleagues and can even diffuse tension. Humor at work can also help you keep what may seem like an insurmountable problem in perspective.
5. Don't skip vacation or check email on vacation
True breaks are needed to fully recharge and recalibrate your approach to the job. Having your feet in the sand but your fingers scrolling through your Outlook calendar is not "disconnecting." And while you may feel like taking time off will just make your workplace stress even worse when you return, studies have shown that people are happier and more productive when they take time off. If you truly lack the resources to take an extended break, schedule a few long weekends throughout the year or even a mid-week day off here and there to relax and focus on yourself.
6. Never let conflicts fester
Given the amount of time you spend with your creative colleagues, you're bound to bump heads from time to time. The problem comes in when the tension is never addressed effectively. Try to nip problems in the bud. Stewing leads to stress, and you risk damaging your own career if you lack the ability to be seen as a team player. Remember: The end goal of conflict management is to resolve the problem, not to win.
7. Set some boundaries
Don't constantly bring work home. Let that be the exception not the rule. Strive to end your day when you leave the office. If you feel pressure from your employer to be available 24/7, be honest about how that impacts your stress levels. Let your manager know that work-life balance is important to you, not only to reduce stress at work, but also to increase your creativity and productivity. Be upfront about what needs to change if you’re on the road to burnout.
8. Don't be afraid to ask for help
If you're working as hard as you can and still feel buried in projects, don't suffer in silence. Your manager can't help you if he or she is not aware of the problem. Before you set up a meeting, think of a few solutions you can suggest that would ease your pressure, such as offloading some of the work to a freelancer or adjusting deadlines. And it never hurts to try some different time management tactics or experiment with new ways to prioritize projects.
9. Enter your week with a positive attitude
Get the most out of your entire weekend so you can enter the workweek recharged and refocused. Before you leave work on Friday, straighten up your workspace, tend to any unanswered emails that threaten to nag you throughout the weekend and make a to-do list for Monday morning. Schedule time for activities and relaxation each day of the weekend. And don't succumb to the Sunday night blues. If you find your stress levels rising Sunday afternoon, make fun plans for that evening to take your mind off your job. Otherwise, you risk not only jeopardizing your personal time, but also waking up on Monday in a state of stress.
Stress at work is a career-long battle for many people, and it will inevitably ebb and flow throughout your life. For the sake of your health and happiness, it’s worth making the time and effort to keep it at bay.