Where does stress come from? The American Psychological Association reveals their top work-related examples:
- Excessive workloads
- Low salaries
- The nonexistence of a work-life balance
- The feeling of being undervalued and unappreciated
- Limited growth potential
- Unclear performance expectations
- A lack of social interaction
If you are feeling a heavy weight on your shoulders from these everyday stresses, it is likely because you have not learned how to manage your stress effectively.
With remotely operating jobs here to stay, it has become increasingly difficult to separate our work life from our personal life. While experiencing some levels of stress is unavoidable, there are specific steps you can take to move closer to a healthy work-life balance. Learning to limit your daily stress intake will not only play a tremendous role in your career growth but positively impact your physical and mental health. Hold tight to these four principles:
1. The Power of Saying ‘No.’
It’s always easy to say yes, and you may feel the pressure to do so to advance your career, but is it worth forfeiting your peace of mind? When you are overloaded with responsibilities and rapidly approaching deadlines, you are giving stress an open-door policy into your life. Saying yes to everyone is not the only way to propel your career. In fact, juggling too many commitments is an unhealthy habit that will often lead to experiencing career burnout and ultimately stall your career.
The career experts at The Mayo Clinic provide three additional reasons to say no:
- “Saying no isn’t necessarily selfish.” Honor your existing obligations and avoid taking on too much; otherwise, the quality of your performance is at stake.
- “Saying no can allow you to try new things.” Stay focused on the tasks at hand and use free time to pursue other interests in or outside work.
- “Saying yes can cut others out.” Saying no allows the opportunity for others in your organization to step up.
2. Set Clear Goals & Boundaries
Are you tired of feeling overwhelmed in your current career? Does your fear of disappointing others lead you to put too much on your plate? Learning to set clear objectives and establish boundaries is an excellent tool to coping with your stress. Maintain self-respect by being assertive rather than aggressive and passive. During your workday, it is not recommended that you divide your focus across several responsibilities at a time. Prioritize and organize your tasks and projects and ensure that your daily tasks tie into an overarching goal. Plan your schedule for the week ahead, and be sure to include breaks (and actually take them!).
Many employees tend to blend their work and home life, which brings conflict and confusion when working to achieve a work-life balance. While the flexibility and freedom offered with a remote position has immeasurable benefits, the blurred line between work and home only becomes more magnified. Making yourself available to answer phone calls and respond to emails at any time of day is again laying a path for feeling burnt out. Establish boundaries in your job to disconnect from the laptop or phone and focus on your personal life.
3. Relax & Recharge
Taking time out of your day to clear your mind by listening to some music or calling a friend can play a significant role in keeping your stress from catching up to you. Especially in a remote position, the importance of taking time to get away from your desk and get out of the house cannot be understated. Temporarily separating yourself from a stressful environment or assignment can allow you to return to a more focused, calmer state of mind with a fresh perspective. Utilize techniques such as meditation and mindfulness exercises. On a larger scale, using your vacation days is a great way to unwind and return to work feeling inspired and focused.
4. Eat Healthy & Live Healthy
Don’t push back on your daily stressors with junk food or alcohol. Stress-eating through comfort foods is a safe way to deal with your issues but strictly serves as a temporary solution to your stress. After a difficult day at work, there is no better alternative to letting out your frustrations than a trip to the gym or unwinding at a fitness studio. If exercising is not your currently preferred method, consider alternatives of making time for friends or family, reading a new book, or picking up a new hobby. Prioritizing a good sleep schedule is also critical to effective stress management, which can be achieved by eliminating the use of stimulating devices, such as your phone or television, up to an hour before bed.
Recently, I had a discussion with a Cleveland-based CEO who shared the immense toll that operating from a home office took on his mental and physical health. In addition to becoming more susceptible to stress and drops in productivity, he revealed how he was confronted with a rude awakening after one year of working from home. On a recent warm weather day, he decided to go for a jog but failed to make it down the street. “I’m out of shape,” he admitted. He did not realize how intensified the effects would be from a year of no longer walking to and from meeting rooms and departments or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. This is especially true when the alternative is walking a mere few feet out of bed.
The solution? Take care of your mind and body.
- Create your own commute to work or take a few meetings while you walk down your street.
- Extend your lunch break to include a quick trip to the gym.
- Switch to an adjustable sit/stand desk.
Reminder: Experiencing Minimal Levels of Stress Can Be Healthy
Too much stress leads to career burnout, but too little stress? This will enter you into a career rut as you coast through the day-to-day tasks of your week. Facing the pressures of increased performance expectations can be detrimental to your career, but encountering stress in moderation can improve your job performance and health. Experiencing healthy levels of stress, or eustress, keeps employees motivated and ready for the next challenge and allows companies to grow.
Encountering stress is inevitable, but managing the way you respond to stress can help rid of its negative ramifications. Asking for help is a sign of strength and courage. If you are struggling with feeling overstressed or overworked during this season, remember that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from your friends, family, or company management. Whoever you reach out to can likely relate to your feelings of anxiety and share an experience that can help you cope.