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How to Avoid Stress at Work

By: Janie Franz - Updated: 2 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Job stress costs US businesses nearly $100 million each year on lost productivity, absenteeism, and health costs. The Daily Mail reported that stress was the number one cause of absenteeism in the US, with up to 13 sick days annually used for stress-related illnesses.

Most job stress comes from overwork and overtime, deadlines, lack of recognition, fear of being laid off or fired, not understanding your job duties, feeling that you aren't doing all that you are capable of, and difficult co-workers, bosses, or clients. It can also come from perfectionism, perceived expectations, and a negative attitude.

The best way to deal with stress is to prevent it all together. First, take care of your body. If you are eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise, you will be physically and mentally able to handle your work life.

If you are already experiencing stress on the job, find out where you are feeling the most tension at work. What part of the day is it? What tasks are you doing? Are you hungry? Do you need a change of scene? Is it a particular person? This kind of reflection can help you target the nature of your stress.

Communication and Assertiveness

Since stress can come from not knowing exactly what is expected of you, go over your job description with your employer. If you are given a special project, make sure you understand the parameters of the task. You'll work more efficiently and with less tension when you know exactly what to do.

Know your own skills and limitations and what jobs you do best. Take on only what you can do well. If there is an area of work that you feel less confident in, take a class or seminar.

Learn to say NO, even to your boss. Don't work overtime if you can avoid it.

Balance your needs with the needs of others. Remember that someone else's crisis is not your problem. If someone has failed to do something and then demands that you fix it, especially if you have to work overtime, you are under no obligation to do so-even if it is your boss. If you are under a deadline yourself, you can't possibly take on someone else's special need at that time.

Time Management

Determine what your stress load is. That is the number of tasks you can do at work and the pace that they can be accomplished at while maintaining high productivity and creativity. Most of us think we can do more than we are physically and mentally capable of doing. Make sure you don't take on too much.

Before you head off for work each day, plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning and to make the commute to your workplace. Lay out your clothing the night before. Put any tools or work projects you brought home where you can find them before you leave.

Mentally prepare for work during your morning commute. If you don't drive, take some time to look over your calendar and your to-do list. Mentally rehearse what you will be doing during your day and visualize yourself capable and handling each task well.

Learn to manage your time. Break up large projects into smaller pieces. Set realistic deadlines. Use your calendar and create to-do lists.


De-clutter your desk. Keeping a clean work space will minimize your stress. Organize your work projects so that you only have the part of the project you are working on open on your desk at any one time. Put your work away and clear off your desk when you go home each night.

Keep your office surroundings attractive. Bring in art or flowers or plants.


Maintaining a positive attitude will help you cope with work. If you view your work life as being pleasant, in most cases it will be. Determine what you can control at work and what you can't. Try to focus on work at work; don't bring it home.

Also, don't take on other people's problems. If you can, walk away from trouble, whether it is a co-worker's personal problem or a particularly disagreeable colleague. Sometimes, it's better not to engage the other person.

Visualize what your paycheck will pay for, especially if you are working extra hours. For example, a saleswoman, who was trying to furnish her new apartment, got a bonus for every new client. After each sale, she announced to her co-workers, "That'll pay for those new end tables!" or "That's my new armoire!"


Take a lunch break away from your desk or the office. Make sure that you do something enjoyable and don't think about work. Eating lunch with co-workers may be great for team bonding, but you need to keep the conversation away from work to feel refreshed.

Give yourself work rewards. When you finish a particular piece of work, take a walk outside, have a latte, or go sit in your company's foyer for five minutes and look at the art hanging there.

Also, develop friendships outside of work. You don't need to have people around you all the time who talk about work.

Using these techniques, you can avoid workplace stress or minimize its effects.

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