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Mastering Stress: 7 Practical Ways to Taming Workplace Tension

Updated: May 9

Sometimes, I must pause and take a deep breath because I feel stressed. I know I am not alone. Because we are alive, we are subject to stress. Living people go to work. Therefore, stress is a common experience in the workplace, no matter our industry, work level, or leadership position. 

I often support clients who are trying to manage stress in the workplace. Setting up and implementing new strategies to acquire and maintain a healthy work balance feels like more work! Yes, you will experience more stress as you try to manage it! If you can tolerate the overwhelming feeling behind the thought, “This is one more thing I will have to do,” your ability to deal with and prevent unnecessary work stress will probably increase. The seven strategies below can be supportive as you master stress and tame workplace tension.

1- Choose Self-compassion.

Not all stress is bad! At its proper levels, stress increases focus, energy, and productivity. Yet too much stress can lead to decreased job satisfaction, burnout, and even physical and mental health challenges. We are living organisms impacted by many things; sometimes, even good events can elevate our stress levels! Please let go of the guilt of feeling stressed! Occasionally, we know precisely where the stress is coming from; at times, it is impossible to identify stress sources. Therefore, embracing supportive strategies can be more productive than accusing ourselves of feeling the way we do. The only way forward is to show compassion for ourselves. Stress lives in our bodies. When we practice mindfulness we are with compassion creating space for our bodies to rest and heal.

Slow Down. Embrace mindfulness, which involves slowing down and paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness exercises, such as breathing exercises, meditation and spiritual practices, like prayer, can be done at your desk or during a break. Research links mindfulness to improved mood, reduced stress and anxiety levels., and increased focus.

2- Manage your time.

One of the most significant sources of workplace stress is inadequate time management. The amount of work we need to do can overwhelm us, leading to stress and anxiety. Time management promotes reduced stress.

  1. Stay away from multitasking. While it may seem like a superpower, very few people have the innate ability to multitask effectively. I have to confess that I hold the illusion, I am one of them! A study by Alzahabi & Becker found that multitasking can lead to increased mental workload and reduced working memory capacity, ultimately decreasing productivity and increasing stress. Instead, create a schedule that allows you to focus on one task at a time.

  2. Become a time bender. We cannot increase the hours of our day, but we can manage our energy levels throughout the day. Discover when you are the most energetic. Schedule tasks that require brain power to your energy peak times. Schedule mindless tasks to your times of low energy. You will get much more done.

  3. Practice setting deadline boundaries and prioritize tasks based on their importance, impact, and urgency. Not the order of arrival. Resist the urge to say yes to be kind to a co-worker. As social beings, we intensely dislike letting people down. However, setting unrealistic deadlines to please others can lead to unnecessary stress. Instead, advocate for setting reasonable deadlines that you can deliver on, empowering yourself, and preserving essential relationships and workplace connections. Two simple and firm helpful statements to employ when enforcing workplace boundaries are: This timeline does not work for meThis time works (and state your desired time).No explanations. Just the statements. If someone insists, repeat this: This timeline does not work for meThis time does - and state your time. Smile, take a deep breath, and repeat the same thing until you reach the desired deadline. You may feel uncomfortable saying it at first. Setting boundaries involves feeling awkward for a moment to enjoy long-term freedom.

3- Prioritize movement.

Physical activity is an effective way to manage stress in the workplace. Exercise releases endorphins, natural mood boosters, and reduces the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. A short walk during a lunch break can help reduce stress. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or stretching at your desk is helpful. Take breaks and create a “time to move playlist” when working from home. Dancing to the sound of Burna Boy after a challenging meeting can do wonders for stress release/relief before jumping right back into a new task or meeting. 

4- Acknowledge & Embrace Human Connection.

No one is an island. Social support is essential for managing stress in the workplace. Talking to colleagues, friends, or family members about work-related stress can help reduce anxiety. Be aware of what you share. Cycles of negativity or gossip can increase stress levels. Sharing your process and feelings other than events and specifics about people can be supportive. Consider joining a workplace social group or participating in team-building activities to build relationships with colleagues. 

5- Take Breaks & Laugh.

Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help reduce stress. Even a short break, such as a coffee break or a quick walk around the office, can be supportive. Avoid eating lunch at your desk and prioritize recharging energy during your break. Please do not minimize the power of a few minutes of relaxation. Every laugh and smile put a deposit in your resilience bank. Just a few minutes of telling jokes or listening to funny stories your colleagues share is priceless. If you work from home, call a supportive friend or loved one, watch humorous videos, or listen to jokes during your break. Laughter improves health by reducing stress, boosting the immune system, and releasing endorphins that promote happiness.

6- recognize the signs of burnout.

Chronic stress can quickly turn into burnout. Our bodies can deal with high stress levels but need recovery time to return to baseline. Burnout happens when there is no time for recovery, and the constant demands for energy continue in less-than-optimal conditions . As I said above, self-compassion is the way. Burnout brings loads of self doubt and guilt. Every client experiencing burnout I have connected with was bright, resourceful, and passionate! Often, their condition happened because they were trying to help people or solve problems the best they could in far from good conditions. Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step towards taking action and preventing further damage. Remember that burnout can affect anyone, regardless of their profession or situation.

Here are some symptoms of burnout:

  • Chronic fatigue and exhaustion.

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems, Insomnia or difficulty sleeping. 

  • Increased cynicism and negativity towards work and colleagues. 

  • Lack of motivation and interest in work.

  • Decreased self-esteem and confidence.

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.

  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol to cope with stress. 

  • Reduced satisfaction and accomplishment in work.

  • Withdrawal from social situations and reduced engagement with friends and family.

Seek professional help If you are experiencing some of the symptoms above. Your workplace might offer EAP (Employee Assistance Program) services. It provides employees with confidential support and resources to help deal with personal or work-related issues that may affect employee mental health and well-being. EAP services typically offer short-term counseling sessions, usually between 6 and 8, to help employees address and manage their personal or work-related concerns. The advantages of EAP services are easy accessibility and immediate services. Connect to your HR and inquire about your EAP benefits.  

7- Be Selfish About Self-care.

Honor your humanity by developing strategies for self-care and emotional balance. Prevention is the best remedy for stress. Commit to holistic health. Commit to creating space in your schedule for fun and relaxation. Discover what relaxes and brings you joy. Be proactive about managing your personal life. The person struggling at home will show up at the workplace with less margin for problem-solving, dealing with conflicts, and giving proper feedback. Seek counseling and support regarding dealing with relationships outside the workplace. It will increase your ability to be present and productive at work. 

Work is an integral part of life.  We spend most of our adult lives in some work environment. Managing stress in the workplace is vital. Effective time management, regular exercise, mindfulness techniques, social support, and taking breaks are all effective strategies for reducing stress and improving overall well-being. Take a deep breath. You are a living being. One of the characteristics of being alive is experiencing stress. I kindly wish that by incorporating some of these strategies into your work routine, you can shine as you have always meant to, manage stress, use it to your advantage, and experience much success in your work life.



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