Everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do. You may experience pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. When work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming and harmful to both physical and emotional health. Research has indicated that the percentage of Americans who are stressed at work is high—and it’s only getting higher. Work stress has significant health consequences that range from relatively benign to potentially severe.
TRACK YOUR STRESSORS
Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings, and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting, and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
DEVELOP HEALTHY RESPONSE
instead of fighting stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rises. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also, make time for hobbies and favorite activities. Whether it’s reading a novel, going to concerts, or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for the things that please you. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also essential for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences regarding how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.
To avoid the adverse effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods when you are neither engaging in work-related activities nor thinking about work. That’s why you must disconnect from time to time in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste.