How can I manage stress at work?

Some stress is healthy and can help you react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation. At work, stress can motivate you to perform well. But too much stress can make it hard to focus and complete tasks. When not managed successfully, stress can pose serious concerns for your physical and mental health and lead to burnout. Stress on the job is often unavoidable, but employees at all levels of a company can learn healthy ways to manage their stress and mental health at work.

Take a break

When stress makes it hard for you to focus, take a moment to pause and breathe. If possible, step away from the task at hand for ten minutes to allow yourself to regroup from any stress, frustration, or anger you are feeling. The healthiest thing you can do for yourself when experiencing difficult emotions is to give yourself time and permission to process those emotions.

If possible, take a short walk outside in the fresh air to help clear your head. Or, take a walk around your office building to get your body moving. It’s important to take your mind off what’s stressing you out. Focus on how to care for your needs in that moment—whether that includes breathing exercises, taking a walk, talking to a friend, or grabbing a snack. Once you’ve taken a break, then return to the task at hand.

Talk it out

Stress can be an isolating emotion, and you might think that you’re the only one struggling. If you’re feeling a lot of pressure at work, talk to a trusted coworker about it. Ask if they have a few minutes to spare, and share how what you are dealing with is making you feel stressed. It’s not healthy to get stuck in a rut of complaining—but voicing your concerns out loud can be a huge relief.

It’s likely that your coworker is also dealing with their own pressures and can share similar concerns. By acknowledging stress out loud, you can help each other work through the emotions and see your situations from new perspectives.

Get organized

When you’re stressed, it’s easy to put “organize workspace” at the bottom of your to-do list. But feeling out of control of your workspace can lead to more (unnecessary) stress. Take time to get organized before pressing onto the day’s other important matters.

Dedicate a few minutes to get everything in your workspace in order: clean up your desk or work area, add important meetings and events to your calendar, and create a new daily, weekly, or monthly to-do list. The simple act of getting organized can help ease your stress and prepare you to tackle more meaningful work.

Take Time Off

If stress at work overwhelms you, consider taking a sick day or a vacation to tend to your mental health. Unmanaged stress can lead to long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Time away from your job can help you physically and mentally recharge and avoid burnout. But make sure you are giving yourself an honest day off to benefit fully. Avoid checking your email or making work calls when you are away. Truly move your attention away from all job responsibilities for the day and give yourself the hard-earned chance to relax.

Whether you need to take a break, talk it out with a coworker, or take time off, find something that works best for you. Continue to check-in with yourself by taking a free, anonymous, and confidential mental health screen to see if you are dealing with something more than stress. As you manage your stress at work, remember that you aren’t alone and that your mental health matters.

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