Stress can be good for you when it’s motivating you to meet a deadline or an obligation. But if it’s constant, it can affect your quality of life.

Work-related stress is not as much about the job you do as it is about the way you do it. After all, if your job didn’t have time pressures and deadlines, it wouldn’t get done. But when the going gets tough, you may wonder if the way you work could be contributing to your stress levels. If you can break away from bad habits and adopt successful strategies for managing your workload, you can take control of your stress at work.

Common Sources of Work Stress

�   Low salaries.

�   Excessive workloads.

�   Few opportunities for growth or advancement.

�   Work that isn’t engaging or challenging.

�   Lack of social support.

�   The inability to control work-related decisions.

�   Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

Work-related stress can be brought on by poor work organisation, demanding workloads and work-life imbalance. It can manifest through health problems such as headaches, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, short temper, upset stomach and muscle tension. Whilst you can’t completely protect yourself from these factors there are steps you can take to minimise their impact.

1. Learn how to relax.

Taking time out to relax and recharge your batteries is a great way to refresh your energy, allowing you to tackle those demanding projects with a clear head.

Learning how to relax is a great way to help reduce stress at work, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Try a few techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness, taking just a few minutes each day to focus on something like your breath, a walk or simply enjoying a meal. The skill of focusing purposefully on one activity without distraction will strengthen with practice and you’ll find that it can help you in many different aspects of your life.

2. Take time to recharge.

While downtime is important for reducing stress, it can feel hard to make time for rest and relaxation. If you are having trouble disconnecting from work and taking a break, start by setting aside a few minutes each day to focus on your personal needs. At the end of your workday, turn off your smartphone and focus your attention on non-work activities. Or, whenever possible, take time off work and use it to relax and unwind.

3. Establish boundaries.

Create a boundary line between your work hours and personal time. Don’t check your email or voicemail after a certain hour, or keep your phone turned off. You all reduce the stress of feeling like you need to respond, plus you all have more mental energy for yourself.

4. Track your stressors.

It’s a good idea to keep a record of the situations that you find stressful, so you can begin to recognise common triggers. Keep a notebook with you and make detailed notes about the circumstances and your reactions. You’ll soon see which situation are stressors for you – but remember, everyone is different, so what is stressful for one person may not be for another.

5. Develop healthy responses.

Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night. Also make time for hobbies and favourite activities. Whether it is reading a novel, going to concerts or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for the things that bring you pleasure.

6. Talk to your supervisor.

If you are feeling stressed, it can be valuable to talk things over with your supervisor and figure out how you could work together to create an environment that promotes well-being. Find out what kind of support and resources your company offers. Ask if there is anything your boss thinks you could be doing differently to improve your performance.

7. Get some support.

Feeling relieved of work stress can be as simple as talking to trusted co-workers about how you feel, then venting to family or a good friend about it later. Learning to ask for help from your employer and those around you can reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed, and may even free up some time in your busy schedule.

Effects of Uncontrolled Stress

Stress does not just disappear when you head home for the day. Stress that persists can take a toll on your health and well-being. It can contribute to headaches, stomachaches and other aches and pains; it can be caused by short tempers, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances; it can lead to anxiety, insomnia, raised blood pressure and a weakened immune system; it can contribute to depression, obesity and heart disease. And if people deal with stress in unhealthy ways, such as overeating or abusing drugs and alcohol, it can cause even bigger problems.

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