Working on your time management skills, taking time to recharge, becoming aware of how events affect you, and relying on a support network may help you manage job-related stress. Asking for help is also important.
Emails, Slack messages, phones ringing off the hook, your co-worker dropping by for an impromptu meeting, deadlines — work-related stress can be a lot to handle.
Some tension is expected, especially when facing a looming presentation or challenging assignment. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can affect your physical and emotional well-being.
Experiencing work strain is unavoidable — even if you love what you do. You can take actionable steps to keep job stress at a manageable level.
Being aware of how work stress affects you
Sometimes, it’s easy to underestimate how much stress affects you. If you start becoming aware of how you feel, you may find yourself emotionally exhausted and pessimistic by the end of some days.
Signs of stress
Here’s a look at some of the subtler signs of stress:
- low energy or fatigue
- changes in appetite
- digestive issues
- rapid heart rate
- low self-esteem
- loss of sex drive
- frequent illnesses
Writing down your stressors
Identifying and recording stressful situations can help you understand what’s bothering you. Some of these can be subtle sources of tension, such as an uncomfortable workspace, chatter in the back, or a long commute.
Keeping a journal to track your stress triggers and reactions may help. You can include people, places, and events that cause you a physical, mental, or emotional response.
As you write, you may ask yourself:
- How did this make me feel? (Afraid, angry, hurt?)
- What was my reaction? (Did I visit the vending machine afterward or go for a walk?)
- What are some ways of resolving it? (How can I find solutions to this stressor?)
Taking time to recharge
Taking even a few minutes of personal time during a busy day can help prevent burnout caused by chronic work stress.
Listening to an interesting podcast between meetings or watching a funny YouTube video can give you relaxing pauses throughout the day. The more relaxed you are, the more productive you can be.
It’s also important to take breaks from thinking about your job by not checking work-related emails on your time off or disconnecting from your phone in the evenings.
Honing your time management skills
Sometimes, feeling overwhelmed by work comes down to how organized you are.
Try setting up a priority list at the beginning of your work week by preparing tasks and ranking them according to importance.
You can also beat procrastination by setting aside specific time blocks for deep concentration work. Try to address the more tiresome or less appealing tasks for an early sense of relief that may make the rest of the day feel less stressful.
Balancing your work and personal life
Being available around the clock will quickly burn you out. Creating clear boundaries between work and home life is essential to help you avoid potential job-related stress.
Part of this means setting aside time for socializing and establishing rules for when you’ll check emails or take phone calls.
Re-evaluating negative thoughts
When you’ve experienced worry and chronic stress for an extended period, your mind may tend to jump to conclusions and read into every situation with a negative lens.
For example, if your boss doesn’t say “hi” to you first thing in the morning, you might react by thinking, “They’re mad at me.”
Instead of making automatic judgments, try distancing yourself from negative thoughts and observing.
Relying on a solid support network
Keep in touch with trusted friends and family to help cope with stressful work situations.
If you’re having a hard time with an incredibly challenging work week, try asking parent friends if they can help carpool your kids to school on certain days.
Having people you can rely on during tough times can alleviate some of the built-up tension.
Taking care of yourself
Setting aside time for self-care is necessary if you regularly feel overwhelmed by work. This means prioritizing sleep, setting aside time for fun, and ensuring you eat throughout the day.
Feel like you don’t have the time? Keep in mind that you’ll likely be able to tackle work issues more effectively when your core needs are being met.
Learning relaxation techniques
You may start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on being present and enjoying a simple activity — a short walk around the park or appreciating a meal at your desk.
You can also take a few seconds every hour to look out a window, listen to a favorite song, or eat a delicious snack. Remember to leave all work-related stuff aside when you take these breaks.
Make it a habit
Here are a few other ways to build mindfulness into your daily routine:
Staying out of the office gossip mill
Workplace conflict can take a significant toll on your emotional well-being. Try to avoid participating in gossipy situations.
If you know one of your colleagues is especially prone to gossip, find a way to spend less time with them or steer the conversation to safer topics.
Some other strategies for staying out of the fray include:
- emphasizing the positive (“Tom has been juggling a lot lately and handling it well.”)
- ignoring the conversation and changing the subject to something unrelated
- walking away (“Sorry, I have a huge deadline due after lunch and can’t stay and chat.”)
Letting go of perfectionism
If you need to get that presentation just right or find yourself working extra hours perfecting a report you finished days ago, it may be time to take a step back and reflect.
While perfectionism has some positive benefits, it can also be highly stressful and lead to burnout.
Try to keep your high standards in check by focusing on the effort you put into a project and not personalizing failure when you make a mistake.
Going on vacation
Being able to disconnect or “switch off” from responsibilities and job-related activities can help you relax and unwind like no other.
You don’t have to jet-set across the world, either. A work-free staycation or trip a few hours out of town can help you reset.
Approaching your supervisor
Getting support from your boss can significantly alleviate feelings of burnout.
Try to set aside quiet time to talk with your manager and calmly discuss feeling overwhelmed by challenging tasks. Approach the conversation from a place of solving the problem rather than listing complaints.
For example, you could say you want to revisit what’s expected of you outside of working hours because things feel overwhelming. The point is to find a resolution that helps reduce strain.
If this task sounds daunting or you don’t have a good relationship with your boss, consider reaching out to someone in your company’s human resources department (if available). They can help you navigate the conversation and offer troubleshooting tips.
You don’t need to have a mental health condition to try therapy. Feeling overwhelmed at work is a valid reason to seek additional help and support.
Working with a mental health professional may help you better identify the sources of your work stress and find ways to navigate them.
A therapist may also help you develop strategies for decompressing and caring for yourself so you avoid burnout.
Work stress that goes unresolved may lead to emotional and mental challenges and decreased productivity.
Taking period pauses during the day, strengthening your support network, engaging in relaxation techniques, setting work-life boundaries, and asking for support from your boss or a therapist may help you manage job-related stress to avoid burnout.