Avoiding stress is never an option because make no mistake, it will come to you in any capacity, any job, and any environment. We cannot escape the stress of work, but we can learn to manage it better. Many think that putting their backs into it and doing a full-blooded work sprint will help solve the stressful issue, many more work keeping the weekend as a motivator in sight, only to find themselves overworked with chores on the holidays themselves. Then there are people who work keeping other motivators such as a trip or a movie in mind, dreaming about the time when they can finally zone out in front of the screen to get some relief. The most comforting assurance about this entire scenario is that you are not alone. This constant low- (or high-) level stress at work is at an all-time high. It’s pushing many of us past our limits, causing us to ignore our needs and boundaries, and bleeding into our personal lives.

Why are we so passionate about facing work stress head on? Because it makes us unwell. It leads to our body showing symptoms of physical and mental deterioration, some immediately and some over time. Ultimately, emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the leading factors of death around the world. This being a preventable aspect, we should double down on our efforts to combat stress at all levels.

Stressors come in two shapes and sizes. External work stressors can include last-minute deadlines, unexpected projects, meetings, isolations, extra work, and that colleague. Internal work stressors are us fighting our own battles within our own selves. It could be imposter syndrome (the feeling of not being good enough) that keeps bugging us or us expecting ourselves to be perfectionists all the time. In our quest of trying to please people, we might end up failing to maintain clear cut boundaries regarding our time and space; leading to us working late often. While many of the external factors remain outside our sphere of control, we can easily regulate a lot of the internal ones.

Managing Stress

Thankfully, we also have two ways to manage the stresses that come our way. A reactive stress management plan is for those triggers that pop up during the work day. It could be an extra task, a shortened deadline, or a quick rearrangement of teams. In these moments, you need something to reach for to calm the stress response, allowing you to respond to the task at hand. A proactive stress management plan happens outside of work. It’s about dealing with lingering stress from the work day and those internal factors of stress that are in your control. This helps you be more fully present in your free time and allows you to get the rest and recharge that you need to head back into work and do it all over again.

Reactive Stress Management

When stress does eventually pop up at work, it might be best to take step back. Is it a challenging co-worker? Try not saying anything during emotionally charged up situations; because those are words you might end up regretting, eventually. Do you feel yourself nervous before a sudden meeting? A quick step back to meditate and prep yourself up is actually a very good idea. Entering a meeting with a calm and relaxed mind will help you to show up in a better state. Are you hearing rumours of management getting stick and worried that it will cascade down to you? Maybe you think you’re going to get fired, that no one likes you, or that you can’t even handle this job. But when it comes to managing stress, it’s important not to automatically believe everything you think. Detach from your thoughts after a point or you will become a slave to your thoughts and will fail to see facts apart from fiction. If you have too much on your plate and find it hectic, communicate in a clear and composed manner.

Proactive Stress Management

This is all about managing stress away from work. Using your time wisely to fully disconnect from work will help you get the most out of your free time. Creating a daily end of work ritual will help in positivity. The best rituals are ones that feel good to you, and that you’ll actually stick to- such as making a habit of drinking water half an hour before you log off, or closing all tabs, listening to music after work, or a run. Anything that works for you! Maybe pick up a hobby like doodling or cycling; it could even be a hobby that is not mainstream- an activity that allows you to be completely yourself. Develop healthy habits- maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly and you will find your mental bandwidth being occupied by your own wellbeing. Give yourself enough REST- we conveniently forget that; binging shows till late after midnight, overthinking out scenarios or snacking on whatever is available. These activities are just not worth it. Stop those internal stressors in their tracks. Do not beat yourself up over the slightest of mistakes. Learn to switch off from work and not ruminate upon it.

Even after such extensive measures to combat stress at work, if you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a coach, who can help you better manage stress and unlock your full potential to rise above that which bothers you. A coach will also be understanding enough to point you towards a psychologist, should you need one. The first step will always be to help yourself, if that does not work others around will help out if you ask.