Job-related stress is one of the leading stressors among Americans, outranking health, housing, family, and other major areas, according to the American Psychological Association. But a lot of what stresses us out at work can be controlled by us if we pay attention to it. Since much of our stress comes from feeling a lack of control, one of the best ways to approach job-related stress is to take back control. By analyzing your situation, you can pinpoint areas to regain control and reduce your stress.
Here are five ways to reduce your stress at work.
Make a stress journal. Take stock of one full work day and make notes of everything that causes you to feel stressed out. Whether it’s impending deadlines, or annoying coworkers, or a less than great relationship with your boss, make a note of each time you feel stressed out during the day. This way you’ll be able to see where your stress is coming from and then able to determine what to do about it.
Look outside of work to find related stressors. Just because you’re feeling stressed out at work doesn’t mean that what is causing your stress is actually at your place of work. A lot of the stress we feel comes from the conflict between our work lives and our personal lives. In order to make sure that you really know what’s stressing you out, take stock of your personal life and all the different ways it intersects with your work life. Pay attention to areas like child care, housing arrangements, family relationships, living expenses, and your health. Are any of these causing stress that seeps into your workday?
Speak to your boss. Once you determine your work-related stressors, ask for a meeting with your boss to see what can be done to rearrange your work load, add or remove responsibilities, or give you more control or power to eliminate stress and have a more peaceful existence at work. Don’t assume that nothing can be done. Sometimes the shortest route to your solution is a simple question like, “Can we talk?”
Try to find more work-life balance. Because so much of the stress we feel at work is caused by outside influences in our personal lives, see if you can strike a better balance between your work and personal lives. Work a flexible schedule to accommodate children’s activities, eldercare, or other things in your life that need your attention. Alternative schedules can help you avoid the daily commute and add an hour or two to each day. And working from home can allow you to be as productive as possible because it eliminates interruptions from colleagues, and increases your ability to focus on the task at hand. If these options truly aren’t available in your current job, it may be time to find a new job, perhaps from one of the many companies who support flexible and remote jobs.
Be clear with your expectations. Doing all of this work to identify your stressors, alter your schedule to better accommodate what you need to do, and speaking with your boss about your workload will be in vain if you don’t then make clear to all involved your plan for stressing less and enjoying work more. If annoying interruptions from colleagues are some of your big stressors, be clear about when your office door, whether you actually have a door or not, is open or closed. Set aside a block of time every day or at least once a week where you turn off your phone and email and concentrate solely on your work. Even an act as simple as putting a sign on your door or at your cubicle entrance that says “please do not disturb” will go a long way to helping you focus on reducing your stress.
While stress at work can seem to come from nowhere, affecting you at the worst times, by taking proactive action, you can get under control. Designate next week as “get rid of stress” week, and identify your stressors, determine your work life balance needs, speak with your boss about solutions, and make the changes necessary to control your job related stress for a happier and healthier life.
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Director of Online Content at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for telecommuting and flexible job listings, and a contributing writer to 1 Million for Work Flexibility. Brie provides career and job search advice through the FlexJobs Blog.