Work-related stress continues to be a significant issue for people of all ages, professions, and backgrounds. Many professionals have learned to manage their stress through conventional means like prioritizing, delegating, and taking breaks. However, these methods sometimes do not suffice, and people need to explore unconventional ways to deal with work-related stress.
Four holistic ways to manage work-related stress that are not mainstream:
Identify the Source of Stress
As you go about your day, pay attention to the events or situations that led to tension, avoidance, anxiety, or frustration. Once you identify the source, ask yourself what exactly about it causes stress.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the population finds themselves committed to careers or industries that fail to bring them joy. This might be a result of early parental or societal pressures, the necessity to earn a living and cover basic needs, or due to prioritizing a higher income to maintain a certain lifestyle over personal fulfillment and simplicity. That said, the first things you should ask yourself are:
Do I derive satisfaction from what I do? And if not, why am I doing it? Be honest with yourself. In America especially, we think we "need" more than we actually do to survive. Food, water, utilities, basic clothing, and shelter are all we need. Having a Stanley cup is not a need, and unbeknownst to some, it doesn't lead to true happiness.
Beyond your occupation, there are numerous other potential stressors, such as interpersonal relationships, environments, and systems that need to be examined.
Is it the physical environment (i.e., poor lighting, no windows, cubical city, etc.)?
Do you not fit in with the culture of the company?
Do you struggle to deal with certain personality types?
Do you feel you are being micromanaged?
Feel your work is mundane and unmotivating, or you're being overworked?
After identifying the source of your stress, rephrase the stressors in a way that makes you a responsible part of the solution. I know this is unconventional and may trigger anger in many who read this. But the truth is, we can't change what is around us, but we can change how we address it and allow it to impact us. However, this requires emotional intelligence, discipline, compassion, and confidence. Because the truth is, even if you change jobs, if you cannot take control over how you deal with people and change, you will continue to struggle.
Check-In with Your Resilience
Stress can indeed be viewed as a mirror, reflecting our resilience levels in managing the multidimensional aspects of our lives. High-stress levels may indicate a lower threshold of resilience, particularly when faced with external adversities such as workplace pressures or personal conflicts. Internally, our ability to manage stress is intrinsically linked to our emotional, mental, and physical resilience. The way we cope with stress, both physiologically and psychologically, is a testament to our inner strength and adaptability.
However, it's crucial to remember that resilience is not a fixed trait but rather a skill that can be developed and improved over time. By adopting mindfulness practices, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, and seeking support when necessary, we can strengthen our resilience, thereby reducing our stress levels and improving our overall well-being. This could include anything from taking breaks before we get overwhelmed, spending time in nature, meditating, getting enough sleep, setting healthy boundaries, journaling, and breathwork (a proven and highly effective technique that takes little time).
Assess Your Needs
As mentioned earlier, knowing the cost of basic needs for living and what you are willing to deal with can be helpful when searching for work that is more suited to your needs. Sometimes significant lifestyle changes may be necessary for you to be in a job you enjoy that offers a better work-life balance. Assess your needs and make the necessary changes to improve your working situation. You may be surprised that living without material wants to not be in a job you hate leads to fulfillment beyond what you ever imagined. But this also requires inner security and peace that many have yet to cultivate—which leads to a yearning for external gratifiers.
It's not uncommon for workplace stress to stem from fear - fear of speaking up, fear of admitting we don't know something, and fear of setting boundaries. The following key points elaborate on techniques to conquer these fears and maintain a balanced, less stressful work environment.
Don't be afraid to speak up and address issues appropriately. Most of the time, the outcome is far worse in our minds than in reality. How we approach an issue is critical. If we allow our emotions vs. objective facts to drive us, it will likely not turn out well.
You don't have to know everything or feel obligated to deliver if what is being asked is unreasonable. Many times, people add unnecessary stress and pressure to themselves because they feel like they have to provide immediate answers, instead of simply saying, "I don't know. Let me get back to you." It's perfectly fine to admit that you don't currently have the answer.
Moreover, it's important not to take on more than you can manage. Often, when someone requests more from you than you can handle, it's because they don't know about everything else you're already doing. In such cases, you can say, "Sure, I can take this on. Which of the things that I'm currently working on would you like me to put aside for now so I can focus on ___ task for you because I don't have the capacity to do both.
Don't let your fears create problems that wouldn't otherwise exist if you have the courage to address them effectively.