“Work stress is one of the most common things that hinders people’s quality of life,” said Carilyn Ellis, PhysD, and integrated primary care psychologist at Samaritan Waldport Clinic. “While you can’t completely get rid of stress with any job, little things you can do make a big difference.”
Here are some of her tips for reducing stress:
Take breaks (vacations, too)
Actually take your work breaks. As tempting as it is to eat at your desk or work through lunch, you need a breather.
“Get up, move around, eat your food somewhere other than your workplace,” said Ellis. “Short breaks are vital and give your mind a moment away from the sights and sounds of work.”
If you have vacation days, use them. You don’t have to go anywhere, but you need a balance between home life and work life.
Pack healthy snacks
“Veggies crunch like a naughty snack, but you’re actually getting antioxidants,” said Ellis. “You can ‘stress eat’ with fruits and vegetables and not feel guilty or weighed down. Plus, if they’re the only thing you pack, you’re more likely to eat them.”
Drinking plenty of water helps give you mental clarity as it helps flush out the stress hormone cortisol. Plus, the extra trips to the water cooler (and restroom) give you exercise and a break from your desk.
Chat with your co-workers about how you feel. It’s good to acknowledge what you’re thinking and feeling with someone else who understands. Feeling bonded with others is a great way to relieve some stress, but try to be careful to keep your discussions constructive.
When the stress isn’t just ‘a part of the job’
These tips can help you manage the everyday stressors of work such as changes in the volume of work or number of hours needed to complete your job, as well as cope with work stress when you’re away from the job. But work stress can be more serious. If these tips aren’t working or you’re experiencing more serious stressors, such as harassment, it may be time to consult with human resources, your supervisor or consider a job that may be healthier for you.
“Work is a large percentage of your life and it’s important to have a positive experience,” said Ellis. “I believe that you either need to do what you love, or work a job that allows you to do what you love when you’re not working.”
Walk over and talk to a co-worker in person rather than calling or emailing. You’ll get a little break from your desk and some exercise to keep your mind fresh.
Take some time off, or make a change
If you find yourself starting to fear going into work and dragging your feet, this is a sign of burnout and you should take some time off. But when is enough, enough? Examine your job. Is it just the technicalities of your job that are causing stress (such as volume of work or shift hours required)? If so, these are likely changes you can make to ease stress, such as a shift change or working with your manager to evaluate your workload.
“If a job is violating your personal values and you’re regularly thinking, ‘this isn’t me,’ it’s time to start looking for another job,” said Ellis. “A job should give you money, but also a sense of personal fulfillment, security and identity. A job should not take more than it gives. Don’t give up until you have a job that works with your values, or else you may find yourself in the same position again.”