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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

7 Realistic Steps You Can Take to Stop Being So Stressed Out at Work

stressed woman

Work stress. If you’re not careful, it can easily overtake your career and your life. Unfortunately for many Americans, pressure from the office can be difficult to avoid. A 2015 American Psychological Association study found that 60% of Americans suffer from work-related stress.

There are countless sources of anxiety, whether it comes from being overwhelmed by your workload or not being able to escape office politics. But don’t let it get the best of you. By simply taking a few small steps in how you approach your job, your career, and the stress that comes with it, it will all feel more manageable.

Here are seven things you can do to help alleviate your anxiousness:

1. Set Boundaries Around Your Inbox

When email first became popular, it was easy to limit how much time we spent with our inbox. You checked it while at your office computer and didn’t think about it again once you clocked out in the evening. But now we have access to our email 24/7, thanks to smartphones and other mobile devices. And whether you’re spending time with your family or running errands, as soon as you see that new email notification, you’re tempted to respond immediately.

While you might think answering emails right away makes you a better employee, the stress of always being available quickly takes its toll. Pick a few times a day when your attention is dedicated to your inbox. Having planned email breaks allows you to stay focused throughout the day on other tasks without your inbox getting out of control.

2. Avoid the Drama

How often does this happen in your workplace? You come into the office, ready to work and whistling a happy tune. You stop in the break room for a cup of coffee and immediately are ambushed by a co-worker: “You won’t believe what Bob did!” And so starts your spiral into the office drama black hole.

Unfortunately, such office antics are common. A 2015 CareerBuilder survey found that 44% of employees have witnessed a co-worker tattle on someone else, 32% have experienced workplace cliques, and 30% have heard rumors about co-workers. Don’t get caught up in that hassle. If you find colleagues are trying to drag you into the drama, politely tell them you have something important to work on and excuse yourself.

3. Take a Break

A 2015 Staples Business Advantage survey found that 28% of employees feel burnout at work because they never take any breaks during the day.

The longer you work without taking a mental hiatus, the lower the quality of your projects will be. It’ll make you more irritable and frustrated. Don’t let things progress that far. Instead, take a break for a few minutes whenever you feel yourself getting overworked. You can have a snack to fuel your brain, or get up and walk around to get the blood pumping. Anything is better than sitting in a cloud of stress and anxiety.

4. Surround Yourself With Positivity

We all have something that motivates us, whether it’s a picture of our family or a poster featuring our favorite inspirational quote. Surround yourself with your own unique brand of positivity to keep your mood up.

Consider what images, sounds, or color soothe you. Then, find decorations to hang on your office walls, or songs to play through your headphones so you can stay happy and centered throughout the day.

5. Chit-Chat With Co-workers

Human beings are social animals. Even the shy or introverted feel better when they know they aren’t alone. By taking the time to build relationships in the office, you create an escape from stress at the office.

Find a co-worker who has a similar interest as you. Even if you both only have Game of Thrones in common, it will give you an outlet to talk about something non-work related while connected with someone else. Just remember, small talk can be therapeutic, but the moment things turn toward gossip or office politics, it’s time to get out of the conversation.

6. Just Say No

It’s a skill you learned back in junior high, but have since forgotten: saying no. When you’re trying to prove yourself at work, it’s easy to develop the habit of saying yes to everything. Whether it’s the boss’ request to put in overtime or a co-worker’s plea for help on a project, you want people to see that you’re hardworking and willing to go the extra mile.

But, there are so many hours in the day. If you’re piling on too many extra responsibilities, it’ll leave you feeling exhausted or overextended. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, really consider if you have time to do something without it causing your own work, personal life, or sanity to suffer. If those things are at risk, you have the right to say “no.”

7. Take Note of Your Silver Linings

When you’re having a stressful day, or even week, it’s easy to get bogged down in all that’s going wrong. Face all that negativity head on by taking the time to find a silver lining. It can be something small, like the printer having fresh toner in it or a compliment from a co-worker. What’s important is thinking about that one good thing reminds you that things aren’t all bad.

Stress is a natural part of life. And in some cases, it can push you to be a better professional. However, when you allow pressure to overtake your life, it negatively affects your career. Lead a happier life by remembering these little steps to relieve unnecessary anxiety.

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