Some careers involve more stress than others. Being a lawyer is one of them. There is a significant amount of pressure to “get it right” and take care of your clients needs. To make sure they get the best representation possible.
Lawyers aren’t the only ones who deal with work-related stress; at some point, most people have had to manage it. No matter what you do or where you work, it’s not just the nature of your work that can cause stress. How much you earn, the people you work with, the amount of responsibility you have, and the management staff you work under can all cause stress.
Common Sources of Work-Related Stress
There are a number of reasons for work-related stress. Here are just a few:
- Not earning enough.
- Your workload is too much for one person.
- Your work isn’t engaging or challenging.
- There’s too much multi-tasking required.
- There’s no room for advancement or promotion.
- Lack of support from co-workers or management.
- Having your ideas ignored and not having enough input in decision-making processes.
- Conflicting requests from management or clients.
Warning Signs of Work-Related Stress
When work becomes overwhelming and stressful, you lose confidence in your ability to do the job. It can leave you feeling resentful, short-tempered, or withdrawn. Other signs of excessive work-related stress include:
- Loss of interest in work or hobbies
- Trouble sleeping
- Constant fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Headaches and muscle pain
- Stomach upset
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
Ongoing Effects of Work-Related Stress
Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave your work-related stress at the office when you head home for the day? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The stress remains with you and can have long-term effects on your health and mental well-being.
Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and a weakened immune system. It can also be the underlying cause of obesity and heart disease.
And, it can cause relationship issues with your family and friends. As you start to lose interest in your hobbies and personal activities, you start to distance yourself from the people you love.
Taking Steps to Manage Stress
Managing your stress before it happens and while you’re feeling it are the best ways to protect yourself for its long-term effects. Here are some of the best ways to control and reduce your work-related stress levels:
- Track your stressors. Before you can know how to handle your stress, you need to know what exactly is causing you stress. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify the situations or conversations that create the most stress and how you respond to them. Write down your feelings and information about the situation, including the people and circumstances involved. How did you respond? Keeping track will help you know when a stressful situation may arise so that you can control or avoid it in the future.
- Create healthy responses. Instead of drowning stress in alcohol or food, start to create healthier responses. Try things like exercise, yoga, meditation, time with family, reading a good book, cooking a meal, or going to a movie.
- Create boundaries. Establish work-life boundaries to keep your work life from overflowing into your personal life. Are you guilty of checking work emails or responding to your boss’s text messages after hours? Unless it’s an emergency situation, end all work-related conversations when you leave the office for the day. Leave the office at the office when you shut your computer down and get in your car.
- Listen to music in the car. Listening to your favorite music can have a calming effect. Turn on your favorite tunes at the end of the day or listen to a good audiobook on the drive home. It will help you let go of a bad day and shift your mind for a better evening at home.
- Take time to recharge. We all need time to replenish our bodies and minds. It may surprise you to know that many people don’t use their vacation time. Are you one of them? Your vacation time is there to help you get away from work-related stress and recharge yourself. Use it in a way that will be most beneficial to you. Do you like to take long breaks? If so, use 1-2 weeks at a time and get out of town and away from the office. Or, use your vacation time a few days at a time to allow yourself several long weekends and extra time off during the holiday season.
- Talk to your supervisor. Healthy, happy employees are more productive, so your boss has an incentive to create a positive work environment. Talk to your boss about ways to improve employee moral in the office. Explain how doing so would improve everyone’s attitudes and productivity. Talk about flexible work schedules. Maybe allow employees to choose if they’d rather have a long lunch break and work a little later, or have a short lunch break and go home earlier. Staggering arrival times for people with kids they need to care for in the mornings. Implementing casual Friday’s or an office potluck luncheon once a month. Hiring a yoga instructor to come to the office and guiding a yoga class once a week in the break room. What would improve employee moral and reduce stress for everyone in the office?
- Get support. Talk to friends and family about what you’re dealing with. Getting their support and help in not only understanding what you’re dealing with yet also how to help will make your load lighter. They may have some great ideas to help you reduce your stress levels.
- Start your day off right. Take a few extra minutes in the morning to get yourself in a happy place. Think about what you’re grateful for, stretch your muscles after a night of rest, eat a healthy breakfast, meditate, and listen to music on the way to the office.
- Understand your responsibilities. Not being clear on what your boss or clients expect of you can be a big source of stress. If you’re not sure what the expectations are, ask. Discuss what the end result should be and if there are any other factors you need to be aware of. The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to do your job.
- Avoid conflict. Unless the conflict is directly related to you or your work, stay out of any conflict situations with your co-workers. You don’t need to add more stress where it’s not necessary.
- Stay organized. Keeping your work area and calendar organized will help you find what you need when you need it. You’ll always know where you need to be and when, avoiding any surprises in your day and reducing your stress.
- Create a comfortable workspace. Uncomfortable chairs, harsh lighting, loud noises, and cramped spaces can make your workspace a stressful environment. Create a soothing space with a comfortable chair, a desk lamp, some relaxing background music, and an organized, clutter-free desk.
- Forget multitasking. Trying to do too many tasks at once and keeping track of too many things in your head is a recipe for stress. Multi-tasking is over-rated. Instead, focus on one project at a time. Not only will it help you be more productive, yet you’ll also be able to do a better job with it.
- Move around. A sedentary lifestyle is not only unhealthy for your body, it’s unhealthy for your mind and can cause stress. If you have a desk job, use a timer on your computer or phone to remind you to move around. Work for 50-55 minutes at a time, then get up and walk around, stretch, and move your body for 5-10 minutes. It may surprise you to know that if you walk for just 10 minutes at a time, 5-6 times a day, you’ll easily do 10,000 – 12,000 steps which equates to about 4-5 miles! And, you’ll easily get an hour of exercise in your day without even trying.
- Forget perfect. Setting goals and giving your work your best effort is a sure-fire road to success. Striving for perfectionism will make you crazy. It’s an unattainable goal. Especially in a busy, fast-paced environment. Do your best, that’s all you can do, let go of perfect.
- Eliminate interruptions. Emails, phone calls, co-workers stopping in your office, and sudden, urgent deadlines lead to more distraction than ever before. You may not be able to control the interruptions; however, you can control how you respond. If you’re a scheduler and manage your task with a schedule, leave one hour per day in your schedule for unexpected emergencies that need to be dealt with. If nothing comes up, great, you have an extra hour to get ahead for the next day. If you’re not a scheduler, that’s okay too. Stay calm when interruptions arise and either deal with them quickly and move on or make a plan for how they will be dealt with later. For things that you have more control over, like checking email, voicemail, and social media, schedule 15-20 minutes 2-3 times per day to check them and get back to work.
Avoiding work-related stress isn’t always easy, it happens and its part of life. Learning how to control it, reduce it, and overcome it will keep you healthy and happy, both physically and mentally.
If the struggle with the job is real and you are ready to make a change the horses and I can help with that. Call for a FREE consultation to see how we can help.