Over the years, workplaces have become increasingly receptive to the mental wellness of their employees. And yet, stress at work is inevitable, with Singaporeans being among the most stressed at work globally. While you may be lucky enough not to take your work home, you might be taking home the stress from work. If it’s not managed well, it can affect your physical and mental health. So it’s important that you learn how to cope with stress at work and not let it get the better of you.
Signs that you’re too stressed at work
In the corporate world, not feeling stressed at work is impossible. Small bursts of stress may even be good, empowering you to get work done faster.
But when stress compounds, it begins to do more harm than good, making you more unproductive. In fact, it can also increase your risk of depression and anxiety, as well as cardiovascular disease.
But how can you tell if it’s a good or bad kind of stress? Here are some signs that indicate you’re too stressed at work.
You’re feeling anxious or depressed
Stress in the workplace can affect your mental health. The constant need to meet deadlines and increasing demands may lead you to feel more anxious when you’re already struggling to stay afloat.
External factors at the workplace may lead you to begin second-guessing your capabilities, or even make you feel like you’re incapable of achieving what you set out to do.
You might be feeling anxious or depressed at work if you’ve experienced these:
- Turning down opportunities because of phobias
- Career has plateaued because you’re unwilling to take risks
- Feeling isolated
- Overreacting to situations on the job
- Focusing too much on negative aspects of your job
- Inability to concentrate and finish tasks by the deadline
- Taking an unusual amount of time off work
You’re feeling irritable
Work takes up a large part of your day, and it’s completely normal to feel distressed by your work struggles even after you get off work.
One of the signs that you’re too stressed at work is when your compounded stress results in agitation that you release in bursts to the people around you.
When you’ve got a lot occupying your mental space, your threshold for what irritates you becomes much lower. If you find yourself snapping more often than usual, you may be overly stressed.
You have trouble sleeping
Some businesses may sometimes require employees to be responsive round the clock. Even when that isn’t the case, stress may affect your ability to sleep.
This results in a continuous cycle of a lack of sleep that affects your memory and alertness, which only ends up increasing your stress at the workplace.
So if you’re lying awake at night thinking about the day’s events at work, you may be suffering from workplace stress.
You’re feeling fatigued
Have you been feeling tired for days or even weeks despite getting enough sleep?
Fatigue is a sign of both physical and mental exhaustion. It can last for weeks, keeping your energy level and motivation low.
If you’re feeling the sort of tiredness that getting enough rest simply can’t relieve, then you’re probably fatigued. Eventually, it can make you feel drained and lead to burnout.
You have trouble concentrating
Stress and a lack of relaxation can lead to an inability to concentrate, making day-to-day tasks and meetings difficult.
The irony of stress is that it’s often self-defeating. Having a lot of things on your plate can make you feel stressed, triggering an increase in adrenaline levels and heart rate. These changes can increase your concentration, helping you deal with the challenges at hand.
However, too much stress can make it hard for you to concentrate.
You’re having stomach issues
Stress can be bad for your physical health. Stomach pain, bloating, nausea and cramps that show up during working hours are some telltale signs of too much work-induced stress.
As a response to your body’s danger signals, stress activates a hormone called adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which is sent to the adrenal glands. This triggers hormones such as cortisol to be released. Not only does cortisol increase your heart rate, it can also lead to an inflamed stomach lining and the uncomfortable sensation of a knotted stomach.
Stress can also cause a surge in acid production in your stomach, which results in gastric symptoms like belching and feeling nauseated.
You’re withdrawing socially
Social withdrawals at the workplace are a likely effect of stress taking its toll. If you’re feeling reluctant to take part in team activities and mostly feel like keeping to yourself, you may be experiencing social withdrawal. Oftentimes, social withdrawal goes hand in hand with fatigue, which is also a result of stress.
Social withdrawal may also affect your performance at work by making you feel like you don’t have any feedback to offer, or don’t want to engage in company activities.
Over time, social withdrawal can also lead to bullying, arguments and complete disengagement.
You’re drinking to cope
Many people turn to alcohol to cope with stress. In fact, both men and women have been reported to consume more alcohol when they’re highly stressed.
Alcohol can induce positive feelings and relaxation in the short term. But if you’re consuming alcohol to take your mind off of the stress that you encounter at work for the long term, you may increase your chances of developing alcohol use disorders.
It’s been proven that alcohol can actually take a psychological and physiological toll on the body. The consumption of alcohol actually worsens the situation by increasing the release of cortisol — the same hormone that gets released when you’re stressed. Essentially, alcohol can change the way the body perceives and reacts to stress.
Cortisol also promotes habit-based learning, causing your brain to crave alcohol for the temporary relief of stress. In addition, increased levels of cortisol can constrict your blood vessels and cause an increase in blood pressure by straining heart muscles.
Experiencing symptoms like gastric pains, vertigo and headaches, but not sure if it’s due to stress at work or a physical condition? Don’t worry if you can’t quite put your finger on it. Expert answers are well within your reach.
After all, managing stress shouldn’t be stressful.
How to cope with stress at work: 15 methods to start applying
Besides seeking professional help, there are lots of ways on how to cope with stress at work. In this article, we’ve listed down 15 things that you can do to manage stress.
1. Practice mindfulness
When things get too overwhelming, the best thing to do might be to simply take a step back and observe. Practising mindfulness is a good way to do so. It allows you to look at all your thoughts and experiences without judgment.
More often than not, we’re our own worst critics. If you’re looking to understand how to cope with stress at work, mindfulness will allow you to pay attention to the present with openness, acceptance and curiosity.
Gradually, a mindful way of thinking can help you manage stress by breaking your own harmful mental habits. If you tend to dwell on the past and future or indulge in excessive self-criticism, it’s good to be mindful and recognise how you’re hindering your own progress.
2. Evaluate negative thoughts
Stress over a prolonged period can lead to fatigue or burnout, both of which may cause you to be rather cynical about things. You may adopt an overwhelmingly negative stance on matters related to your work, and even lose a sense of meaning in your work.
If you’re stuck in a rut like this, it may be a good time to relook some of these negative thoughts and reappraise them.
While it’s definitely easier said than done, you could treat your negative thoughts as hypotheses that require analysis, rather than concrete facts.
This way, when you’re feeling frustrated because of negative feedback, reappraising can help you look at it as a room for improvement. This can also reduce negative thoughts about your work.
3. Practice problem-solving
Good problem-solving is essential in the workplace, and it’s not just for productivity. Problem-solving can also help you take control of your stress and regain confidence in your work.
By taking specific steps like defining a problem, brainstorming solutions and developing an action plan, you’ll have a better control of your situation.
When you’re experiencing stress at work, having a firm grasp on the situation allows you to bounce right back.
4. Talk to someone close
The power of venting should never be underestimated! Take some time to blow off steam, even when you’re busy.
Feeling stressed? Prioritise meeting with someone close with the specific intention of sharing your situation. Not only does this provide you with emotional support, but talking to someone close can help put things in perspective and help you manage your stress.
Exercise is an energiser for both the body and the mind, and there’s a reason why healthcare professionals around the world recommend it.
Exercising can help lift your mood and increase your energy levels. It releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, improving your ability to sleep and reducing stress.
6. Eat healthy and well
Stress can lead to chronic overeating, including consuming food high in sugar such as baked goods. If you tend to do so, you might also have noticed that your heightened sugar consumption affects your workday, tiring you out once your sugar high has worn off.
On the other hand, eating small, frequent and healthy meals daily can help you stabilise your blood sugar. This will keep those nasty mood swings away, allowing you to maintain your energy and your focus at work.
Reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates will also help lower your stress levels.
Here are the types of food to eat and avoid when you’re stressed:
|Food to eat||Food to avoid|
|Food high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish like salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts||Food high in sugar, such as baked goods|
Comfort food like pasta and food high in caffeine and trans fats
7. Sleep well
Sleep is your body’s best way of recovering. Being more well-rested allows you to be better equipped to tackle challenges at work head-on.
If you find yourself unable to sleep, try the common tricks like meditation and listening to relaxing sounds. If you’re looking to change it up, you can also try covering your right nostril and breathing through your left for three to five minutes.
8. Practice good time management
When it comes to managing your tasks, it’s important to have good time management. Planning out your tasks will help you understand how to cope with stress at work better by allowing you to get a clear idea of all your standing commitments. This way, you won’t overcommit to tasks or overwhelm yourself.
In addition, this allows you to strike a balance between work and your personal life, giving you the breathing space that you need. Creating boundaries between work and your own life is very important in ensuring that workplace stress doesn’t affect your life.
9. Practice good task management
Well, knowing how to manage your time well is one key factor nailed. But have you been managing your tasks well? As opposed to simply going down a list, perhaps a couple of changes can help you manage your workload better and increase your productivity.
Tackling the most important things first will help ensure that you aren’t scrambling to complete your work when unexpected situations present themselves.
If you find yourself procrastinating on larger tasks, you can break your work into small chunks so that they appear less overwhelming.
Most importantly, never hesitate to ask for help. Delegate your tasks if needed. You don’t have to do everything by yourself.
10. Talk to your supervisor
If delegating isn’t an option for you, maybe it’s time to talk to your supervisor. After all, employee health is linked to productivity. So your supervisor, as well as your employer, have an incentive to listen to your concerns.
Consider starting an open conversation, in which you clarify what your job scope is and assess if there’s a possibility that you might be doing more than what’s actually required of you. If you need some backing, be sure to get the support of your colleagues beforehand.
Some companies also have fantastic wellness resources to help employees stay at the top of their game. Whether it’s in the form of a gym or sleeping pods, make sure that you’re aware of the benefits that you can tap into to manage your stress.
11. Stop multitasking
You might have gotten used to multitasking, especially with modern-day technology evolving to specifically enable multitasking on computers. However, it may not always be a good thing.
Having your attention constantly split may frazzle you and make you feel like you have less control over your tasks. This may affect your speed of getting things done, and even reduce the quality of your work.
If you’re prone to multitasking, go through your schedule and start by focusing on the more important tasks. This also helps you to relook at how you cope with stress at work.
12. Adjust your thinking and expectations
When you’re stressed, the last thing you want to hear is that “it’s all in your head”. In situations where you can’t control, the best thing that you can do is to reappraise the situation and focus on what you can control.
Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself. Let go of the need for perfection and avoid negative thinking. These can vastly improve the way you work and reduce your stress levels, allowing you to make level-headed decisions and stay at the top of your game at work.
13. Take some time off
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution on how to cope with stress at work, taking time off can’t be emphasised enough. After all, you’re not a machine.
Give your body and mind a break once in awhile by giving yourself time to recharge. Get back in touch with yourself by spending time with your loved ones or engaging in activities that empower and entertain you.
But beyond all of that, remember to get some rest. Even if it’s as simple as snuggling in bed and watching that TV series that everyone’s talking about.
14. Switch to a different role
If your stress is caused by the particular work environment that you’re in, you can always consider transferring to another department.
This is especially advisable in situations when stress is caused by harassment, or when you’re being targeted and singled out by somebody in your department.
15. Find meaning in your work
In moments where stress makes everything seem bleak and pointless, remind yourself of how your work benefits others. Allow your passion to drive enthusiasm and momentum, which can help you through rough times at work.
Finding meaning in your work will also remind you what’s really keeping you here. Perhaps, you may realise that what you’re looking for is not within the path of your current job.
It’s also important to note that even if you’re still passionate about something, it’s okay for you to change your job. Sometimes, excessively stressful workplaces call for a complete exit route.
Manage stress at work one step at a time
Workplace stress can be a labyrinth to work through, and if the above tips don’t work, seeking help is a good first step. At MyDoc, you can speak to a mental health professional at any time of the day, without having to leave your home.