Most working American adults are affected by stress at some point in their daily lives. This stress is, perhaps unsurprisingly, most frequently coming from the workplace. From competition with fellow employees, to not getting paid enough and/or tumultuous relationships with employers, work-related stress is common and can be unhealthy and impact performance. In fact, a recent study from Everest College found that 83% of U.S. workers are stressed. But, what is work-related stress?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), work-related stress is “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.” WHO also points out that stress most often occurs when employees feel little support from employers and/or colleagues. Obviously, pressure at work is sometimes unavoidable, but, increased levels of stress can be caused by many factors including poor management, bad working conditions, and lack of preparation or support.
According to WHO, stress at work “can damage an employees' health and the business’ performance.” Health Advocate found that the damage to business performance leads to approximately $300 billion in lost productivity per year. Which means that addressing work-related stress should be just as important to employers as it is to their bottom line and their employees’ mental health. Some employers recognize how work-related stress can lead to burnout and a decline in productivity, others may not. The following are five ways you can start navigating career stress (with or without the support of your employer) and avoid job burnout.
5 Ways to Work Through Work-Related Stress
1. Sleep more
Sleep is essential to both mental and physical health. Without enough sleep, your body will actually boost its levels of stress hormones and everyday work-related stress is more difficult to handle. You are more likely to snap at that employee who drives you crazy or begin to feel that dreaded burnout. With enough proper sleep, you can physically and mentally handle more stress and for longer periods of time. To start getting more sleep at night, avoid caffeine for the last half of the day, establish a strict bedtime ritual so your body knows what to expect at night, don’t look at your phone before falling asleep, and practice good sleep hygiene. According to SleepEducation.Org, sleep hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits that improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits include reducing fluid intake before bedtime, limit exposure to bright light and electronic devices before bedtime, going to bed early enough so you get 7 hours of sleep, and keep a consistent bedtime schedule.
Research has shown that exercise is good for more than just physical health. Exercise is good for mental health and stress relief. This doesn't mean you have to start spending hours at the gym to feel the benefits of exercise. As little as ten minutes a day of physical activity can release endorphins in the brain and boost your mood. Not only that, exercise also releases that body tension that builds up with career stress, helping you to fall asleep easier at night.
3. Talk to a therapist
When work starts to impact your mental and spiritual health, and not in a good way, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Remember this: you don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to see a therapist. When work stress leads to everyday stress, therapy can help you manage that stress and find the calm you seek in a chaotic work-world. Working with a therapist can help develop new strategies to manage work-related stress and provides a professional to adjust your plan over time.
4. Talk to your boss
Talking to your boss about stress and burnout isn’t always possible and isn’t always recommended. However, if you find yourself in a position where the workload is more than you can physically handle, it might be time to let your employer know where you’re coming from. As we mentioned above, $300 billion is lost annually in productivity due to stress. Bosses sometimes think that overworking their employees will lead to more money, but that is simply not the truth. Speaking openly about the stressors within your job can provide your employer with valuable insight if they choose to listen.
5. Establish a daily routine
Work-related stress and burnout can be avoided by developing a daily routine that focuses on a healthy work-life balance. This includes making the time to stay physically active, developing consistent bedtime and morning routines. Our bodies thrive under a healthy routine and these do not need to be complex to time-consuming. Stay focused on you at the beginning and the end of the day, and remember to find time to sprinkle in joy, even when work sucks. If developing this routine is a struggle, ask your therapist to help you develop a routine that works for you.
The fact is Americans are working longer hours and are feeling more stress than even a generation ago. The American Institute of Stress reports that U.S. workers average 47 hours of work per week, 8% more than the last generation, and 20% are working 49 hours per week or more. To deal with this stress, we can choose healthy coping strategies or unhealthy strategies. Unhealthy ways that adults typically deal with career stress include consuming large amounts of caffeine, smoking, over-using medication, and drinking too often. We all choose ways to deal with work stress on a daily basis. It’s how we choose to deal with that stress that ultimately determines are daily mental health.
If you are ready to start dealing with your career stress in a healthy way, come up with coping strategies that work for you when work gets tough, and talk to someone about the fears holding you back, consider finding a therapist in the Bay Area that works for you through reflect. If you are career driven, you might find therapy will boost more than your mood. It can boost your productivity, work performance, and focus. 75% of reflect clients find that they gain new insights about their lives and begin to see things with a new perspective in the first four sessions. Living in the Bay Area means that career stress, and money stress, has a major impact on our lives. Begin your journey with reflect and begin to navigate that stress to find a greater work/life balance in your life.
Helpful tips for managing stress, incorporating mindfulness, and promoting a healthy lifestyle