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How to Deal With Stress at Work: 12 Tips for Managers

Stress is a natural response to the high-pressure situations you might face at work—especially if you’re a manager. Leading a team comes with plenty of challenges, not to mention the constant push to give 110% of yourself each day. While a little stress can motivate you to get the job done, too much stress can have lasting negative effects. Learning how to deal with stress at work is key to promoting professional mental health. Plus, it helps you be the best leader for your team.

Here’s what you need to know about workplace stress, including how to manage it for good. 

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What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress is an emotional and physical response to overwhelming or high-pressure situations at work. Most people experience work-related stress in the form of tension or anxiety at least occasionally, regardless of their industry or career.

You might experience workplace stress right before an important deadline, during a busy season or as a result of unexpected challenges. For some managers, stress is a constant part of their workday throughout the year. 

Stress can manifest differently for everyone. You might experience headaches, anxiety, fatigue or heightened emotional reactions. You may also procrastinate or have trouble being creative. Knowing how your body or mind reacts to pressure at work makes it easier to recognize stress before it gets out of control. 

How to deal with stress at work

It’s unlikely you’ll ever eliminate work stress entirely. That being said, it is possible to mitigate its effects. Here are twelve stress management at work techniques that will help keep you cool and calm under pressure. 

1. Know your stressors

It’s easier to manage your stress when you know what’s causing it. By cultivating mindfulness at work, you can identify the situations that raise your stress levels.

One of the best ways to stay mindful is to keep a journal, even for just a week or two. When you notice yourself getting stressed, jot down a quick description of the situation. Later, you can look at this record of your stress to find common denominators, be they a specific employee, task or time of the week. 

When you know exactly what’s causing you stress at work, it’s much easier to develop a plan for eliminating or better addressing these sources when possible. Simply identifying a stressor can make it appear much more manageable. 

2. Start the day with low stress

A good workday starts before you get to the office. If you’re running late or aren’t prepared, you’re already on edge. By the time you hit your first stressful event at work, your stress response will be even more intense.

Sticking to a routine outside of work helps you bring your best self to each workday. At the end of the workday, review your schedule for the next day to set yourself up for a low-stress morning commute. At home, make sure to give yourself a break from work in order to recharge. Addressing stressors at home can also help you feel more relaxed overall. When you start your day refreshed and relaxed, dealing with challenges gets easier. 

3. Set boundaries

Making yourself available 24/7 might seem like a good practice for your team. But without cutting off work each day, you risk burning out and leaving yourself vulnerable to stress. 

It’s important that you create work-life boundaries for yourself. These usually come in the form of limiting work activities during certain days or times. For example, make a rule that you only check your work email during normal business hours or refrain from answering your phone during dinner.

4. Practice relaxation techniques

Relaxation is a great tool for overcoming stress. For those days when you have little time to yourself, here are some techniques that will help you find peace in just a few minutes:

  • Deep breathing: Focus on your breath without distraction. When you feel your stress levels rising, take deep, intentional breaths to help you calm down.
  • Meditation: This practice combines both mindfulness and deep breathing to help you relieve stress and restore balance. Regular meditation can help you feel calmer overall and deal with stress better.
  • Guided imagery: Because your work environment may contribute to your stress levels, try to imagine a more relaxing situation or experience throughout the day. Creating a serene image in your mind is a soothing technique that can help you relax.

5. Take time off

Taking a break from work activities helps you mentally reset. When you return to work, you’re better able to deal with potentially stressful situations.

Don’t be afraid to use your vacation days and set aside intentional time when you can turn off your phone and focus on something other than work. Taking time off allows you to return to work feeling refocused and reinvigorated.

6. Develop healthy habits

Building healthy habits outside of work can help you be more prepared to deal with work-related stress. Habits such as eating nutritious food, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep at night can help you put your best foot forward each day. Additionally, developing a hobby is a great way to unwind and take your mind off work. 

7. Rethink the workplace culture

Your workplace culture sets the tone for each workday. If the company culture emphasizes a highly competitive environment, no breaks and long hours, it will be hard to keep your stress level low. If you think your stress is inherent to your company culture, it may be time to implement a major shift. 

8. Improve your environment

The physical workplace environment can impact stress levels. Creating a calming, relaxing environment may improve your mood and keep you relaxed. Cool colors, especially blue and green, tend to have a calming effect and can be good office colors. Here are some other ways to improve the physical environment:

 

  • Add office plants to the workplace for a relaxing feeling
  • Upgrade to a comfortable chair
  • Use a white noise machine or find ways to reduce noise in your office
  • Include pictures and other decorations that make you happy
  • Maximize natural light

9. Get social

Keeping to yourself at work can increase your stress. Build relationships with your employees to feel at ease. Social interactions are enjoyable, which can help blow off steam, and they build stronger relationships with employees. This improves teamwork, which can reduce stress by cutting down on conflicts.

Getting to know employees can also help you manage them better, which can reduce stress. By cultivating a supportive team environment, you can mitigate stress for everyone, including yourself. 

10. Learn how to manage conflict

As a manager, conflict can be common. You might butt heads with other managers or employees. It may also be common for you to get called in when employees you supervise have disputes they can’t resolve. Learning and using conflict resolution skills can ease tension and lower stress. Teach your employees how to listen to one another and come up with solutions to solve disputes themselves.

11. Stay organized

A messy, disorganized office can add to your stress. Just seeing clutter could make you feel anxious, which can put you on edge and amplify stress. It’s also difficult to find the items you need in a messy workplace, which delays your work and increases stress. If your office isn’t organized, work on clearing the clutter and putting organizational systems in place.

12. Reframe negative thoughts

A negative mindset encourages more negativity and can increase stress levels. When you notice a negative attitude taking over, try to flip your thoughts to be more positive.

For example, if you face a new challenge at work, you might think, “I can’t do this.” To reframe it, you might change that to, “This is a new challenge that gives me the chance to learn something new and try new solutions.” Looking at challenges from this perspective turns them into opportunities for growth rather than tasks to avoid at all costs. 

FAQs about how to deal with stress at work

Still have questions about workplace stress? Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions. 

How do you know when normal stress becomes too much stress?

It can be hard to recognize stress, especially if you’re accustomed to working in high-pressure situations. If you start experiencing negative physical effects, such as chest pain or headaches, it could be a sign you need to implement some stress-management techniques right away. 

Why is it important to manage stress at work? 

It can be tempting to live with stress, rather than work to eliminate it from the source. But while managing stress takes some effort, it can drastically improve your performance and happiness overall. Some of the main benefits of developing a stress-management strategy are:

How can employers reduce stress in the workplace?

Any member of your staff can experience workplace stress. As a leader, it’s important for employers to create environments where employees feel heard and encouraged. Here are a few strategies for reducing the stress levels of your team:

  • Lead by example
  • Encourage physical activity 
  • Offer flexible schedules 
  • Check-in with your team regularly 

By encouraging workers to manage their own stress, you can create a productive workspace where everyone can put their best self forward each day. 

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