All of us can be affected by work-related stress. Everybody gets frazzled these days – emails, messages, phones ringing off the hook, co-workers popping by for an impromptu meeting.

It’s normal to feel tense, especially when a deadline looms or an assignment is challenging. However, chronic work stress can impact your physical and emotional health.

Although work stress is inevitable – even if you love what you do – there are steps you can take to minimise it.

1. Be aware of the effects

It might sound simple, but stress affects you more than you realise. Be aware if you find yourself tired and pessimistic by the end of the day.

Research has shown that long-term exposure to unmanaged stress can have negative effects on health, and work-related burnout has been linked to depression and anxiety.

Stress signs

Let’s look at some subtler signs of stress:

  • low energy or fatigue
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • changes in appetite
  • digestive issues
  • rapid heart rate
  • sweating
  • low self-esteem
  • loss of sex drive
  • frequent illnesses

2. Make a list of your stressors

Knowing what is bothering you can help you identify and record stressful situations. These sources can be subtle, such as a crowded workspace or a long commute.

Track your stress triggers and your reactions for one week in a journal. Don’t forget to mention the people, places, and events that elicited physical, mental, or emotional reactions in you.

During the writing process, ask yourself:

  • What did that make me feel? (Angry, scared, hurt?)
  • In what way did I react? (After that, did I go for a walk or stop at a vending machine?)
  • What are some ways to resolve it? (What are some solutions?)

3. Take the time to recharge

The smallest amount of personal time during a busy day can help prevent burnout.

In between meetings, listening to an interesting podcast or watching a funny video on YouTube can provide a relaxing break.

It’s also important to take breaks from thinking about your job by not checking work-related emails on your time off or by putting your phone away during the evening.

4. Master the art of time management

The way you organise yourself can sometimes make a difference in how overwhelmed you feel by work. Prioritise tasks at the beginning of your work week by preparing a list and ranking them based on importance.

By setting aside specific time blocks for deep concentration work, you can also overcome procrastination.

5. Maintain a balance between work and personal life

Keeping yourself available round-the-clock can easily lead to burnout. In order to avoid stress, you should create clear boundaries between your work and home lives.

As part of this, you should set aside time for socialising and establish a schedule for when you will check your emails or take calls.

6. Re-evaluate your negative thoughts

An extended period of worry and chronic stress can cause your mind to jump to conclusions and read everything in a negative light.

For instance, if your boss does not say hello to you in the morning, you might react by believing “they’re mad at me.”

Avoid making automatic judgments by distancing yourself from your negative thoughts and simply observing.

7. Create a strong network of support

Be sure to keep in contact with trusted friends and family during stressful times.

For example, if you’re having an especially tough work week, you might ask parent friends to help with carpooling on certain days.

In tough times, having people you can rely on can ease some of the tension.

8. Look after yourself

It is essential to schedule time for self-care if you regularly feel overwhelmed by work. You need to prioritise sleep, take time for fun, and make sure you are eating throughout the day.

Does it seem impossible? Keep in mind – It’s likely you can handle work issues better when your core needs are being met.

9. Practice relaxation techniques

You can keep yourself relaxed throughout the week by slowing down purposefully and being aware of your surroundings. Relaxation techniques like mediation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness all help to calm anxiety.

Spend a few minutes each day being present and enjoying a simple activity like a walk around the park or a meal at your desk.

Create a habit of it

To make mindfulness part of your daily routine, here are a few suggestions:

  • Before you begin your workday, take a moment to set your intention.
  • Use a meditation app when you feel too stressed at work or on your commute.
  • Make sure to take a five-minute break to try some breathing exercises.

10. Avoid office gossip mills

Conflict at work can have a severe impact on your emotional health. Try not to engage in gossipy behaviour at work.

Whenever possible, steer the conversation to more positive topics or spend less time with a colleague who is known for gossiping.

Other tips include:

  • Positive reinforcement (“Tom is juggling a lot lately and is doing well.”)
  • Avoiding the topic and changing the discussion to something unrelated
  • Leaving (“Sorry, I have a huge deadline due after lunch, so I can’t stay and chat.”)

11. Ditch perfectionism

Take a step back and reflect if you have been working overtime on a presentation you finished days ago or if you find you are working more hours on a report you finished days ago.

Even though perfectionism can have some benefits, it is also highly stressful and can lead to burnout.

You can keep your high standards in check by paying attention to the effort you put into each project, and not personalising mistakes.

12. Take a holiday

Unplugging from work-related responsibilities and activities can help you relax and unwind like nothing else.

You don’t have to travel the world to relax and unwind. A brief trip out of town or a work-free staycation can still help you reset.

13. Tell your supervisor about your problem 

You can significantly reduce burnout symptoms if you receive the support of your boss.

Set up a time when you can calmly talk about feeling overwhelmed by challenging tasks with them. Instead of listing out complaints, focus on problem-solving.

You could say, for example, that you want to revisit what’s expected of you outside of working hours since you feel overwhelmed right now. What’s important is finding a solution that reduces the strain.

Try to reach out to someone in your company’s human resources department (if available), if this task seems daunting to you or you have a bad relationship with your boss. Human resources specialists can help you navigate the conversation and provide troubleshooting tips.

14. Seek professional counselling

Therapy is not only for people with mental health issues. Being overwhelmed at work is a perfectly valid reason to seek additional support and assistance.

Working with a therapist can help you manage work stress better because you will be able to identify the sources of the stress and devise methods to relieve it. The therapist can also help you develop strategies for taking care of yourself and decompressing.