- It’s important we manage work stress, so as to avoid harmful effects like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and other mental as well as physical consequences.
- If you’re struggling with overwhelming stress at work, you should first reevaluate and redefine the right work-life balance for you, which accounts for your main priorities.
- Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it: ask your boss for clearer instructions, ask your coworkers if they want to collaborate, and ask your loved ones to be understanding and supportive when you have a lot going on at work.
- Additionally, you should stop trying to be perfect; instead, accept that nobody is perfect and that sometimes “done” is as good as it’s going to get.
- Finally, stay on top of your health and wellbeing, and acknowledge when you need to make a bigger change such as changing your job or career.
Work can be completely overwhelming. This stress can very much rule our lives and leave us feeling permanently drained—not to mention, stress can contribute to depression and anxiety as well as heart attacks, high blood pressure, and arthritis. My guess is that you don’t need me to convince you of how harmful workplace stress can be, as you’ve probably experienced some negative effects yourself. But I am here to offer some tips for minimizing and better managing stress at work. Heidi Lumpkin, Registered Corporate Coach and former executive, joins me in walking you through these important steps:
1. Redefine your work-life balance.
First, you should take a good look at your life and decide on an effective work-life balance that makes you happy. “At its core, work-life balance is a term that looks different for everyone,” Lumpkin explains. “Plan out an optimal week—what’s involved? What is your ideal level of self-care? Can you carve out a few minutes for professional development? A 30-minute coffee to network? If you can’t find enough time in a week, look at a month instead.”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Lumpkin says you should also call on reinforcements for assistance when you need it. As the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too: “Have you heard the saying, ‘You can have it all, just not all at the same time’? Perhaps there are seasons or recurring projects at work that are particularly stressful. Asking for help and planning ahead as much as possible, while taking extra time to reengage at home and with family and friends,” she says.
3. Reevaluate your priorities.
Now, building back on the first step, reevaluate your schedule and make any necessary changes. “Really look at where your time is being spent when at work and at home,” Lumpkin says. “Some clients find a visual exercise useful: color-coding a calendar for a couple of weeks and then looking for patterns to help define the balance. Further define the blocks by where you want to spend your time (see #1) and schedule forward accordingly.”
4. Forget perfectionism.
We all know that perfection doesn’t exist—still, we give our best go at creating perfect work, at leading perfect lives. What we really need to do is allocate our time wisely and accept that “done” is sometimes as good as it’ll get, as explained by Lumpkin: “So often I work with younger leaders looking to outwork others to the top (often due to a lack of confidence), giving everything 110 percent. Sometimes, ‘done’ really is better than perfect, especially if the ‘done’ buys you some time to focus on other, more elevating tasks or an early commute home.”
5. Delegate what and where you can.
Lumpkin says that you should also utilize your resources to the best of your benefit. In other words, don’t take on more than you can handle; instead, delegate what and where you can: “What can you delegate? At work, there are many levels of actual delegation, it doesn’t have to be all of a project or task or nothing. Look at delegation through the lens of what might benefit others… where might a colleague or employee gain experience or desired visibility if you were to collaborate or delegate all pieces of a project? Sometimes reluctance to delegate comes from an anticipated larger time spent in training others for the task up front. It’s true, but that time spent is an ROI with compounding dividends in flexing your leadership muscles.”
6. Track and manage energy levels.
Is there a certain point in your day where you feel completely drained of energy? Is it after work? After an argument with your spouse? Track your energy drops and spikes so that you can better manage your “fuel,” as explained by Lumpkin: “Some people find it helpful to track energy by task for a couple of weeks to look for insights on activities that give you energy (the keepers) and drain you of energy (what can you delegate or delete out of these?).”
7. Consider a more radical change.
And finally, understand when you need to take bigger steps toward happiness—when you need to make bigger changes like a job or career change. “If a true stress-minimizing focus doesn’t help, consider more radical changes such as finding a new position at a company whose culture more closely aligns with your goals,” Lumpkin says. “They’re out there.”