A quarter of Americans view their jobs as the biggest stressor in their lives, according to The American Institute of Stress. The AIS also found that the vast majority of employees — 80% — feel stressed out at work.
All kinds of negative outcomes are more likely when your stress level is high, from feeling tired, having headaches, suffering from back and neck pain, struggling to fall asleep or even reacting negatively to a co-worker.
Because so many jobs are stressful today, it’s important to develop some strategies to help you effectively manage stress and anxiety at work. Here are tips on how to do it:
Do What You Can to Minimize Interruptions
A study from the University of California, Irvine, and Humboldt University found that one cost of having your work interrupted is a higher level of stress. According to the researchers, “people compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price: experiencing more stress, higher frustration, time pressure, and effort.” Interruptions were found to be stress-inducing after just 20 minutes, increasing the amount of frustration and pressure that people felt to stay on task.
A separate study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that “an interruption has a disruptive effect on both a user’s task performance and emotional state,” leading to annoyance and anxiety. Both studies suggest implementing systems to help organize and lessen distractions and interruptions.
With this in mind, think about what you can do in your specific work environment to minimize the interruptions around you, especially those that are more predictable. For example, if you know that you’ll be distracted at 10 a.m. each day when your colleagues gather for coffee nearby, put on headphones or arrange to work in a conference room at that time to avoid being derailed.
Set Yourself Up for Success With Single-Tasking
In a HealthDay article on multitasking, the University of Michigan professor of psychology David Meyer stated, “Multitasking is especially stressful when the tasks are important, as they often are on the job. … The brain responds to impossible demands by pumping out adrenaline and other stress hormones that put a person ‘on edge.'”
Digital multitasking — for example with email, texting, internet surfing, and social media messages — was found not only to lead to stress but also to have an indirect effect on anxiety, depression and burnout as well, according to a recent study published in the academic journal Media Psychology.
Knowing the perils of trying to do too many things at once, manage the front end to ensure that your focus stays centered on one thing at a time as often as possible during your workday. Gain awareness of your own habits when it comes to multitasking so that you can do what it takes to make single-tasking more likely. For example, if you usually leave your smartphone on your desk while you’re working on your computer and you’re distracted by personal texts, alerts and calls, then turn off your phone while you are working or put it out of sight in a drawer.
Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole of Negativity
You can get stressed out by being drawn into negative or unproductive conversations and thinking styles during your workday. If you have co-workers who gossip about office politics or always point out problems, it’s easy to get sucked into their reality, which can lead to falling behind in your own assignments and feeling stressed. It’s also possible to stress yourself out by focusing only on your worries and anxieties at work, rather than figuring out tangible solutions and engaging in problem-solving.
To avoid the time-suck of negativity, take action to separate yourself as much as possible from cranky colleagues and people who make you anxious. While you may need to work with some co-workers like this on specific projects, you can still set boundaries around how much air time you give them outside of the required collaboration.
Also, identify if you’re falling into negative thought patterns that are stealing your peace on the job. For example, if you notice that you’re constantly discouraged about how much you have on your plate and this causes you to lose momentum, take some proactive steps to avoid becoming overloaded. You might try figuring out which time of day you experience peak energy levels so that you can schedule your toughest mental tasks then, or talk to your boss or colleagues about some reasonable delegation.