It’s happened to the best of us. One minute things are wonderful at work and the next you’re hit with an avalanche of assignments or one huge project that needs immediate attention. And suddenly you’re scrambling to get it all done and keep your boss happy. It feels like your entire life has been uprooted and you are suddenly clocking nine, ten, maybe even 12 hours a day. If situations like this have left you feeling stressed out at work, you have lots of company. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of Americans said that work is a top source of stress, and only 37 percent say they were doing an excellent or very good job of managing stress. Everyday stressors at work are common, but how do you manage stress at work when things are totally crazy?
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of Americans said that work is a top source of stress, and only 37 percent say they were doing an excellent or very good job of managing stress.
When work gets crazy, it’s inevitable that your personal and family life will also be affected. You may find yourself suddenly throwing away your healthy habits, scrambling to get a little bit of sleep to sustain you through the next day, and forgetting about your exercise routine altogether.
And it’s easy to feel like work-life balance is just a fantasy. (That’s a whole other issue). When the stress levels at work pick up, it’s important to take action on your own stress to avoid chronic fatigue and burnout.
Even if you love the work that you do, it’s important to keep things in perspective and maintain a healthy balance between work and the other areas of your life. Your physical, mental, and emotional well-being are important to maintaining a healthy quality of life that will ultimately make you a more valuable employee after all.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this type of craziness at work, regain your focus with these strategies that will keep you sane and healthy.
Tips to Manage Stress at Work When Things are Totally Crazy
1. Create a Morning and Bedtime Routine
Nope, these routines are not just for your kids. When life at work gets crazy, you may feel that all your other routines need to get thrown off track too. And to some extent, there’s going to be a disruption to your usual routines. But don’t feel you need to go completely off course.
Two routines that can help keep you sane during an insane time at work are your morning and evening routines. These are essentially the “bookends” to your day that will help support everything that goes on in-between. Having a good start to the day may mean that – even though you are exhausted from yesterday – you wake up a little early to build in some buffer time. This might mean you get up and make a nourishing breakfast, pack a healthy lunch and snacks, or you do some morning meditation and set your intentions for a productive day at work.
The way you start your morning often sets the tone for the rest of your day. And by the same token, the way you end your day will set the tone for how well you sleep at night and how you feel in general. Creating a nighttime routine may involve making a cup of tea, listening to relaxing music, avoiding electronics for at least one hour before bedtime, or reading before you fall asleep.
2. Find Time for Exercise
When life and work get busy, one of the first things to be thrown out is exercise. But the stress-relieving benefits of exercise are needed during crazy busy times more than ever. Although it may seem virtually impossible to incorporate exercise into a jam-packed workday or week, it can be fit in through small burst that will benefit you both mentally and physically.
You may not be able to do your full gym routine, so think of ways to fold exercise into your day in bits and pieces. Perhaps you can park a little further in the parking lot, go for 10 or 15-minute walks, print at the copier in the other room, or do some stretches or light cardio at your desk. There are many ways to sneak exercise into your busy workday that won’t take away from your productivity, but will actually boost it!
At night the same thing applies. Doing some light stretches or yoga can help to reduce the stress that is building up through the day and week, helping you to have more focus and energy on those non-stop days at the office. Just avoid intense workouts within a few hours of bedtime as this may wind you up more rather than tire you out for a good night’s sleep as some people think.
Fit in physical activity during your busy days. This proven stress-reliever will help you to diffuse stress and calm down when the workdays are trying to wear you out.
3. Get Support at Home
What happens at work will naturally trickle over into other areas of life. Be sure to talk to your spouse or significant other about the changes and ask for help in areas where you need support as you work on the project. The pressure at work doesn’t have to automatically derail your household schedule. Manage stress at work by ensuring you have the support you need in other areas of life too.
Maybe you’ll need extra help with kids, chores around the home, or taking care of other responsibilities. Remember that life is sometimes about making trades. Since we can’t do everything all of the time, you may need to also decide to just let some things go during this time until things return to normal.
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4. Talk to Your Boss
Some people are put off when there is a sudden unexpected (and sometimes unreasonable) demand placed on them at work. You, on the other hand, may jump at the challenge and see it as a way to push yourself and your career further by gaining knowledge in other areas.
Having a positive attitude towards change will help boost your resiliency and lower stress. However, even when you choose to embrace a new, demanding project, be sure to have open communication with your boss about what is expected. Get clear about things like the length of the project, the key players, and any other success indicators. You’ll want to have the right knowledge going in to perform to your best ability.
Knowing up front what is expected will also help you make better decisions about how to handle the other areas of your life that will be affected by your new responsibilities.
5. Do Things You Enjoy to Manage Stress at Work
When work gets busy and chaotic, you may feel there’s little time for you. But even though the stress level at work is rising and things are getting crazy, that doesn’t mean you set yourself completely aside. Look for pockets of time when you can sneak in self-care in your busy workday. Your lunchtime is a perfect opportunity to take a break to de-stress.
Exercise is a great activity to manage stress at work, even during the busiest of days. Choose exercises that can be done at your desk if you’re unable to move far. Fitting exercise into a busy workday allows you to manage stress at work while meeting your physical health needs in the process.
And while exercise is a great stress reducer, it’s definitely not the only way to lower stress at work. Look for other activities you enjoy that can be fit into small pockets of time throughout your day.
6. Set Aside Quiet Time
When your office is swirling with back-to-back meetings, projects, and deadlines, it is even more critical to get in some quiet time throughout the day. Taking a little quiet time – even in 5 or 10-minute increments – allows you to de-stress at work while processing all of the incoming and potentially overwhelming information.
Taking time alone for yourself is essential to stay sane and grounded. Some quiet activities you can do at work include getting outside to connect with nature, doing some reading (of an actual book or magazine) somewhere quiet, or listening to relaxing music. Designate some uninterrupted bits of solitude during your day. This will do wonders for your stress, focus, productivity, and mood.
The Bottom Line
Unless you’re fortunate enough to be independently wealthy, chances are that you have to work to earn a living. While work is a valuable tool for taking care of your family’s needs, your health is your most valuable asset. And preserving your health is becoming increasingly more challenging as our society and workplaces get busier with every day. In my 20 years experience as a mental health provider and coach, I have witnessed firsthand the toll that stress is taking on everyday working moms and families.
The key to overcoming the overwhelm is remembering that you are no good to others if you’re neglecting yourself. I hope the tips in this article have helped motivate you to create a plan to manage stress at work and in your life in general. Contact me if you’d like to dive deeper with a free 15-minute consultation.