Work-related stress is a fact of life. Everyone feels it at one time or another. And with 42 percent of workers saying workplace stress has driven them to a job change, according to a recent Monster poll, we’ve decided to uncover some ways to deal with stress once it hits.
Is it you or your job?
Alexandra Levit, author of “Blindspots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe,” says first, the stressed worker must identify the following: Is it me or is it my company or industry?
“Are you reacting to work or to life?” she says. “You want to assess whether you’re taking your own negative reactions and unproductive ways of coping with stress to the situation, especially if it’s your first [job].”
Levit says many industries — she uses the legal field as a good example — require a lot from employees, specifically the ones newest to the industry.
“People, especially in their first five years out of school, they don’t have balance,” she says. “Work is the top priority and that leads to a lot of stress.”
Levit suggests setting boundaries between work and life to the extent possible. And try to avoid being at the office or thinking about work 24/7 if you can.
‘Should’ is a bad word.
Work stress can at times be attributed to a mentality that the company or a worker’s superiors should be doing things differently.
For people thinking this way, Levit says: “Stop using the word ‘should.’”
“People get stressed out because they’re frustrated, they think things should be a certain way,” she says.
It’s important to reframe those thoughts, and to think about how you, as a worker, might be able to better operate under the circumstances.
“’It is what it is’ is one of my favorite sayings,” she says, adding that there’s a lot of truth in that seemingly dull workplace axiom.
Even if you realized the stress is attributable to you, and you’ve stopped saying “should,” odds are you’ll come up against a stressful situation on the job.
So get ahead of it, Levit says.
Levit, at a prior job, said she was put in charge of coordinating 300 media interviews with 150 executives at a press event.
“I wanted every single one of those interviews to happen,” she says, “but when you have that many moving parts it’s not going to be perfect.”
Prior to the event, she sat down with a friend to prepare. She and her friend built a hypothetical scenario where interviews were falling apart all around her. She developed a plan in case something that catastrophic happened.
“In your mind, it becomes much less threatening” when you make a plan, she says. “And when you find yourself in that situation it’s not as stressful.”
Sometimes you just need to work it out physically. Levit says it’s important to get in the gym or go for a run outside whenever you can.
“Exercise really does decrease the stress response,” she says. “Even 20 minutes on the treadmill can make a big difference.”
Meditation works for some, but if it’s not for you, there’s always good old-fashioned deep breathing.
“If you force yourself, close your eyes and breath in and out 10 times, it’s amazing the difference it makes,” she says.