You might be thinking that it is obvious you are stressed at work and that we do not need to share signs of that stress with you. Our goal is to help all of us to see that while a small amount of stress at work is normal, an excessive amount of stress that begins to weigh on your day to day living is not normal nor is it healthy. Being aware of some signs that point towards being overly stressed is helpful as we analyse our own work environments and seek to create a safe and healthy place for ourselves.
If you find that you relate to these three stresses, it is time to start doing something about it.
Skipping breaks and lunch, and even staying at work late
We’ve all been there, we have that one MAJOR project of the year that we need to complete and so we work super hard on it to get it done before the deadline. But what happens when that one major project becomes two, and then three and then four. What happens when staying late and skipping meals and breaks becomes the normal? That is when the job is becoming overly stressful. Our jobs should be something that we work on and master over time, but if it is mastering us and keeping us from being able to enjoy other areas of our lives — it is becoming too stressful.
Neck pains, and other somatic symptoms
Is your neck constantly killing you? Are you always feeling like you might be sick, or your stomach is in knots? When Sunday evening begins to roll around and the knowledge that Monday morning is just around the corner, do you begin to feel sick? All of these are symptoms of being overstressed and overworked.
Easily aggravated and/or easily offended
Your co-worker asks for assistance on a task they are completing, and you snap. Your friend calls to talk about something hard going on in their life, and you have no sympathy. Your supervisor corrects something you did, or edits a project you’ve submitted to make it a bit more clear and you end up crying or feeling like a total failure and cannot move forward. The stress of work is impairing your ability to interact with others because you feel so overwhelmed yourself.
Have you read through these and found yourself relating to one, two or even all three of these points? If so, you might be stressed at work. Stress at work can stem from a lot of different things, life changes in your personal life, the pressure of a new job and/or position in your work field. Whatever may be causing the stress at work, there are ways to begin to manage the stress and find yourself being able to breathe again — breathing actually would be a great place to start.
3 Ways to help reduce stress at work
Be honest with yourself, and your limitations
Do not put more on your plate than you can handle. It might be a temptation to take on more tasks so that the boss thinks highly of you, and is impressed with your work — but if you are becoming stressed it will drastically change what you can do at work. Your memory will not be as great, your performance will drop and there is a chance that you’ll even have to start taking more sick days. Therefore, only take on the tasks that you know you can handle and that you can do to your best. There might be times when your co-workers ask for you to take on something else, and that is okay — but do not make over piling your plate a normal. It does not benefit you, and it will not benefit your company in the long run.
How to tell your supervisor/co-workers that you cannot take on more?
It is easy to say know your limitations — but what about when your supervisor comes to you and asks if you would be able to take on another project? Is saying no going to harm your chances of getting that promotion? Here are some ideas of what you could say:
- “That sounds like a really great project, and I am excited to see where it takes the company! At this point there are a few projects I am currently putting a lot of my focus on because I want to give them my best, and make sure that they are well done. I know that there are others around here who would love the opportunity to be the lead on this project. If they want second opinions at all, I would be more than willing to talk things through with them, but at this point I really feel like taking on another project would cripple the other things I am working on”
- “Thank you for thinking of me in regards to this new assignment, it sounds like a great opportunity. Truthfully I feel that I would not be the best qualified for that specific assignment. I know that there are others who have studied for that specific role, and would knock it out of the park.”
Practice good self-care
Self-care seems to be quite the trending word currently, but that is because it is so important. The beautiful thing about self-care is that it changes based on each individual. Each person gets to decide what is self-care for them. For some it may be reading while sipping some tea, others might think of it as rock climbing, while others might sing, paint or dance. You know yourself best, therefore figure out ways that you’d like to take care of yourself. Here are a few suggestions of what all of us should incorporate into our self-care routines:
- Exercising – Studies have shown that when one exercises it can help reduce stress drastically. This could be walking around during your lunch break, or heading to the gym after (or before if you’re an early bird!) work.
- Eating Well – There is no doubt that the health of our gut can really impact our physical health. Work can be stressful when we are feeling 100% ourselves, therefore if we are not eating well we are more susceptible to getting sick. Being sick can interfere with our sleeping at night, and our ability to focus. Therefore trying to eat well is important to keeping stress levels down. Also healthy snacks can help us keep our energy throughout the day, instead of that 1 pm crash occurring!
- Taking vacation days – YES! You’ve got paid vacation leave? Take them! If you cannot afford to have an expensive trip away, take a week off and make it a staycation. Or, take a Friday off every few weeks, and give yourself permission to disconnect from work and relax for a three day weekend that is filled with only things you want to do. There is something about sleeping in when you are normally at work that really is so healing.
Be willing to admit your struggles
Perhaps you have found that work has been really overwhelming lately and you do not feel it is because you are taking on too many tasks, but really that you are struggling to keep up with everything. Talk to your supervisor about it. Maybe you are finding that your personal life stress is causing a strain on your ability to work and therefore you are experiencing greater stress at work. Set up an appointment with a therapist. Be willing to admit where you are struggling, be honest with yourself and with others. Trying to pretend that we are something we are not, or that we are capable of doing something that is causing us an overwhelming amount of stress is not healthy for us. Maybe your job really isn’t right for you, give yourself permission to begin looking for other jobs. Maybe you need to switch roles, then talk to your supervisor about that. Admit where you are struggling, it does not mean you are less of a person, or that you have failed, it simply means you need to change a few things in your life. Truly when you are in a place where you’re enjoying your job, it will make such a big difference. We are at work far too long in a day for us to hate it and allow it to cause us such stress.