Dear New Shrink,
Simply put, my job is incredibly stressful. With numerous budget cuts our staff has been reduced dramatically, but the workload has not changed. It is just dumped on those who perform. I enjoy what I do, but find it difficult to make it through the day and still have energy for things I like to do outside of the office, if I can even get out of the office! While I know it will be difficult to simply do less, I would like ideas about how I can better manage my stress level at work.
Dear Stressed Out,
Stress has become quite common in today’s workplace, especially given the current climate. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly 70 percent of professionals report that work is a significant source of stress. While some stress can be helpful in keeping us motivated to accomplish tasks at work, a high level of stress can have significant negative impacts. Recognizing that you are feeling stressed at work can be an important sign that action needs to be taken to remedy your situation.
The most important thing to consider here is taking care of yourself. Although it may be hard to find time for everything, making time to exercise, spend time outdoors, eating a good meal and prioritizing a good night’s sleep can have amazing effects on your mood and your ability to handle stress. If you are feeling stressed at work, not able to make time for things you enjoy outside of work and feeling as though you are always behind, you may be harming your body more than you know.
Pay attention to your physical health and your state of mind. Taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is crucial in order to be productive and effective at work. Beyond the suggestions listed below you should always consult your physician if you feel as though your stress is no longer manageable.
Focus on taking things one step at a time. Sometimes thinking of everything that has to be done as a whole can lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Try breaking down all of the things that are on your plate into actionable tasks. Determine things that can be done relatively quickly as the feeling of crossing things off your to-do list can help lift your mood and help you become more productive on the larger things on your list.
Analyze your day. Over half of the professionals surveyed by APA indicated that they feel less productive as a result of workplace stress. Take an inventory of where you spend your time during the day and consider how you might be able to re-arrange your schedule to take advantage of times when your concentration is best or your energy level is high. For instance, if most people come into the office at 9 a.m., you might benefit from coming in an hour earlier to have time to work on projects with limited distractions or interruptions.
Focus on strengthening relationships with others at work. Developing positive relationships with your colleagues can help serve as a stress buffer. When we have support and others empathize with the feelings we are going through, we often feel better about our ability to tackle difficult situations. Relying on others when possible and finding ways to delegate projects and responsibilities can help reduce stress. Consider if there are others on the team who might be able to help you finish a given task or project.
Finally, make sure your workspace is conducive to productivity. Having a cluttered desk or chaotic workspace can make it hard to stay on task and may lead to feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Take time to organize your workspace at the end of each day. Even just five minutes of organizing your files and important documents will make you feel much better about coming back into work the next morning.
KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!