The Best Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety at Work
There are certain things in life that are almost expected to cause stress, and work often tops the list. Sometimes it’s the expectation from your boss and coworkers regarding your punctuality and the quality of your work. Often, the expectations are your own, and the stress comes from not seeing them met. Maybe you aren’t stressed about work itself, but are dealing with anxiety from something else altogether, and your job makes it worse. Regardless of the source, it is always important to reduce stress and anxiety at work. Knowing how to manage your work stress can go a long way to making you happier at your job and in your life.
On its own, stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a normal response to the world around us, and is often an indication that we care about something. On the other hand, jobs themselves can be stressful. A lack of control over your time and workload, a lack of support from your peers or management, or feeling like you aren’t doing good enough can all contribute to workplace stress.1
Understanding How to Manage Work Stress and Anxiety
Owing to its prevalence, a lot of research has gone into effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety at work. The importance of managing work stress has never been clearer. In 2007, a team of researchers determined that the more “psychologically demanding” your job is, the higher your risk of depression or anxiety – up to twice as high than those in lower-stress positions.2 This is a scary statistic and, unfortunately, it makes sense – our jobs usually take up a big part of the day, and it can be difficult to avoid bringing your workplace stress home with you.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that reducing stress and anxiety at work means knowing how to manage your work stress and anxiety. Trying to “fight off” anxieties and stresses is a counterproductive mindset, because those feelings come from your own body and mind, which are not your enemy.3 Instead, try listening to your body and brain, spot the stress triggers, and try to reduce and manage it. For example, you can consider muting or delaying your notifications at work to help you stay focused on your tasks at hand, rather than overloading yourself with things to do. Mindfulness practices can also be key here; “mental silence” practices like meditation are shown to reduce workplace stress and mental turbulence.4
Aside from taking care of yourself, one of the most important ways to reduce stress and anxiety from your work is to communicate your stress to someone who can help. A seven-year-long study published in 2018 examined the influence of stress management programs and interventions from employers to employees and found that they were highly effective.5 In particular, teaching employees how to psychologically distance themselves from their work led to less anxiety outside of the office. Turning to coworkers, friends, and supervisors for support is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety at work. Making sure that you’re able to properly disconnect from your workplace after the day is done is also very important. A supporting working environment will help a lot.
Making Mindfulness Easy
Taking some time for yourself and promoting a healthier lifestyle is always going to be a good way to tackle workplace stress and anxiety. Try eating healthier and exercising regularly to boost your mood and self-esteem. While we can often only control so much that happens at work, making the most of our own free time can make a big difference. This includes getting enough sleep each night and incorporating mindfulness practices into your day.
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Good physical and mental health are often linked to lower levels of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practices, exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep will all help reduce your stress and anxiety levels at work. More importantly, however, is to remember that it is especially important to work in a space that makes you feel as comfortable and as happy as possible. You’ll likely spend a lot of time in that space, so make sure it is a space that you’re okay to be in. Remember that your happiness inevitably begins with you, and you’ll be managing your workplace stressors in no time.
2. Melchior, M., Caspi, A., Milne, B. J., Danese, A., Poultin, R., & Moffitt, T. E. (2007). Work stress precipitates depression and anxiety in young, working women and men. Psychological Medicine, 37(8), 1119-29. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.sheridanc.on.ca/10.1017/S0033291707000414
4. Manocha, R., Black, D., Sarris, J., & Stough, C. (2011). A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full-time workers. Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011 doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.sheridanc.on.ca/10.1155/2011/960583
5. Herr, R. M., Barrech, A., Riedel, N., Gündel, H., Angerer, P., & Li, J. (2018). Long-term effectiveness of stress management at work: Effects of the changes in perceived stress reactivity on mental health and sleep problems seven years later. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(2), 255. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.sheridanc.on.ca/10.3390/ijerph15020255