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5 Strategies for Reducing Stress at Work

By LifeStance Health on April 25, 2022

This content has been updated from previous article on June 17, 2021.

The expectations of the workplace have shifted since the onset of the pandemic. A showed that employee well-being is a top priority for employees and companies. Demand for workers and salaries are at an all-time high and employees are choosing with their feet to seek jobs that offer better work-life balance or align with their core values.

Even for those who love their jobs, uncertainties around work, financial stress, demands from child or elder care, have become more complicated, creating an additional layer of stress. to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accounted for about 30% of Americans with Disabilities Act-related charges in 2021, up from 20% reported in 2010.

This stress can cause symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, trouble focusing, fatigue, and sleep problems. In some cases, this stress can lead to changes in behavior, such as erratic behavior, substance abuse, withdrawing from social activities, or changes in eating.

While it may feel like this is a good time to change jobs as a way to reduce work stress, you may be jumping out of one fire only to get yourself caught up in another. There are other options to explore before taking that step. Depending on your situation and needs, you may be able to use strategies such as advocating for your needs, learning new ways to cope or creating boundaries to manage the hassles in your workplace.

1. Make a List of Stressors

Before you can make progress toward reducing your work stress, you must identify what exactly is causing you to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. According to the American Institute of Stress, 46 percent of workplace stress comes from the sheer amount of work people must do.

Twenty-eight percent of anxiety in the workplace stems from issues with co-workers, 20 percent comes from the need to balance work with home life, and six percent of workplace stress relates to job security. You may feel pressure from one or more of these categories.

However, aim to be specific when identifying your stressors. For example, instead of saying that you just don’t like your co-workers, identify specific behaviors that bother you and find acceptable workarounds or solutions with your manager or team members. Managing up is more art than science and it can take time to find the best way to work with colleagues or executives you may have to collaborate with, even if they are not in your department.

Other sources of work stress can be related to microaggressions or meeting unsaid cultural expectations at work. Before the pandemic, meeting up after work was more straight forward way to socialize and network, but with fully remote and hybrid work, it may be harder to discern the roadmap to those soft skills and activities that are needed to advance at your workplace. Racial and gender microaggressions can be tricky to address but can create mental stress that disrupts your work.

2. Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Some pressure at work is unavoidable. Deadlines, meetings, and unanswered emails are par for the course for many professionals. However, some people struggle with the stressors because they have not developed healthy coping mechanisms for them.

Therapists and counselors can work with clients to develop some techniques that work for them.

Some common coping mechanisms include:

  • Journaling
  • Establishing health-promoting routines
  • Avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms, like alcohol
  • Getting good sleep
  • Treating underlying issues, like anxiety disorders
  • Mindfulness activities, including meditation

3. Create Fair and Firm Work Boundaries

Do you find yourself answering emails in the middle of dinner? Are you working all hours of the night and thinking about work while you’re doing other things? The problem may be that you do not have firm boundaries with your colleagues or yourself.

It is become more difficult to succeed in the workplace in this new era of hybrid work. A professional life coach who focuses on workplace challenges might be helpful in providing strategies that work in a corporate environment. A life coach can also help you address stressors in your workplace while providing strategies to increase your executive savvy and advance your career goals.

Alternatively, try advocating for yourself to get your needs met. In the current environment of the Great Resignation and increased competition for workers, employers are more apt to accommodate employee requests. Additionally, with remote and hybrid work, there has been an acknowledgement that realistic boundaries between work and home are needed for employees’ mental wellness. Many companies have instituted various firmwide policies to encourage less electronic engagement, for example no email on Fridays or meeting free Mondays.

4. Call for Help When Necessary

In certain situations, you cannot handle the work stressor alone. In instances of sexual harassment or racial or gender discrimination, you may need to escalate the issue to the human resources department or a manager. For example, if a colleague has behaved inappropriately with you, you should not have to handle the situation and response alone. In these situations, be sure to bring in the appropriate authorities and reach out to an employment attorney if warranted.

5. Set Aside Time to Relax

The last two years have refocused our workaholic culture on the other important things in our lives like family, friends and personal hobbies. During the pandemic, the threat of random death heightened our appreciation of our families and friends, and allowed workers to reevaluate whether their company and work aligned with their core personal values. The re-imagining of the office watercooler culture has also allowed employees to prioritize their own needs ahead of the needs of their companies.

In this new workplace environment, it is more important than ever to find time to relax and recharge. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you do purely for enjoyment.

If you need help coping with stress at work or from anything else, contact LifeStance Health therapy clinic near you today. Our therapists can teach you healthy ways to deal with problems in your life and test for any underlying mental health conditions.