Can You Make Work Less Stressful?
Written by: Anugraha Joseph – BA (Psychology)
Last updated date : December 06, 2022
Wouldn’t life be grand if you could somehow magically make work less stressful? It’s a sad fact of modern urban life that work and stress seem to always go hand-in-hand. Just about anyone you meet will tell you that their work stresses them, at least sometimes. Work stress can affect both physical and mental health. Clearly, to make life as an employee fulfilling, we need to learn to make work less stressful for us. And yes, that is possible! In this article, we’ll learn about work stress and 10 tips to relieve work stress.
Why Make Work Less Stressful?
This can seem pretty obvious: nobody wants to be stressed. But you may be underestimating the toll work stress can take on you. It can cause anxiety and depression. The effects of stress on your body can pile up and cause cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and even Alzhiemer’s. Stress may also be behind that cold that you can’t seem to shake.
Sometimes a little stress can be helpful as a motivator. It’s even called ‘good stress’. But when stress affects your health and your daily life, then it’s too much stress.
For example, some of the things you may be stressed about at work are:
- Being disorganised
- Conflict at work
- High workload and long hours
- Too little pay
- Work that doesn’t challenge or motivate
- Lack of control over aspects of your work
- Fear of termination
But everyone faces at least some of these things at work, you may say. So how do you know for sure that you’re too stressed? Here are some red lights:
- You can’t sleep.
- You’ve lost your appetite.
- You’re drinking or smoking too much to deal with the stress.
- You’re always tired.
- You have stress headaches and muscle aches.
- You’ve lost interest in work altogether.
Alright, you’re convinced that you need to change something. Now, what can you do to reduce that work stress?
11 Tips to Relieve Work Stress
Here are some tips to help you manage your stress at work. They can be described under two categories:
Setting boundaries is all about knowing the limits of what you’ll accept from someone else, or yourself. For good mental health, you need healthy boundaries in every area of your life. When you set boundaries for your work life, it helps to dramatically reduce work stress.
1. That Work/Life Balance.
Maintaining a good balance between your professional and your personal life is a very good example of maintaining boundaries. It’s a good idea to separate your work hours from the rest of your time. No emails, no texts, no calls related to work. If you mentally disconnect completely from your work, you can enjoy the rest of your day with your loved ones or any relaxing activities you have. Make sure that both you and your colleagues respect that boundary.
Similarly, if you’re working from home, make sure to demarcate your work hours from the rest of the day. Change into and out of your work clothes, maybe. Don’t doom yourself to feeling like you work the whole day.
2. Manage Your Time With Intent
Make a schedule for yourself so you have sufficient time for work, socialising, family, recreation and any other responsibilities. Remember, this schedule doesn’t have to be a table on paper. You just need to be sure that all the aspects of your life get the attention you want to give them. No one area should take over more than you want it to. Not too much work, not too much binging on TV series. This is an example of setting boundaries for yourself.
3. Get Organised
A healthy level of organisation can very much cut down your stress levels. Don’t you feel more relaxed looking at a neat workspace? This can apply to your digital life: your files and inbox, for example. It can also apply to your work desk or your home. A disorganised space can contribute to disorganisation in your mind. So get organising! It’s worth it.
Similarly, you can be organised in how you work, too. Break down a project into smaller tasks. Set deadlines for yourself for those smaller tasks and keep to them.
4. Learn to Say No
Don’t overcommit. Don’t say yes to every request that lands on your desk. Learn how to refuse politely but firmly. This stops people from encroaching on you unnecessarily. It also makes you a better, more focused worker. When you have a firm grip on the limits of your workload, it helps to make work less stressful as a result.
5. Clarify Your Job Description
Make sure the work that you’re doing is actually your work. Clarify your job description with your boss. At the very least, if it turns out you’re doing more than you should, you win extra points.
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Resist that urge to make sure everything is done just as you would have done it. Delegating will significantly help make your work less stressful.
7. Lifestyle and Thought Change
There are also some things you can change in the way you look at life that can bring down your work stress. Certain lifestyle changes will also help reduce the effect of work stress on your physical and mental health.
8. Resist Perfectionism
Perfectionism can sometimes be a real fly in the soup. It can sap your work satisfaction and motivation. With a hundred things to get just right, perfectionism can be a real stressor. However, if you learn to think differently about how work should be done, it will be helpful for that stress.
9. Be Optimistic!
If you’re always focusing on everything that’s wrong with your job, it can make the best job in the world feel terrible. You’ll also be shooting yourself in the foot: your satisfaction and motivation at work will suffer. Learn to resist that pessimistic streak. Even if the only topic of conversation at the lunch table is moaning about work!
Even if you’re miserable at work, finding something to laugh about will help make you feel better. Watch a few movies about people who find humour in the middle of difficult times. Watch people around you. Humour is a very effective stress-buster.
11. Some Lifestyle Changes
You may have heard of these before, so we’ve saved them for last. Stress can make you want to just sit in a corner and munch on fast food as you watch funny videos late into the night. But that stress is already taking a toll on your body. Exercise, healthy food, plenty of water and over six hours of sleep will not only counteract that toll; they will also make you feel better. While working, take breaks every hour or so. Take a walk. If possible, do some stretches and deep breathing. Avoid screens before bed.
Those are our top 11 tips to relieve work stress! It may take some effort, but implementing at least some of these will help make your work less stressful. Wishing you stress-free work days!
If you’d like to know more about a healthy work life, look at our articles on Work Stress and Work-Life Balance. You may also want to check out our course on Perfectionism.