In my work as a yoga teacher, I hear about the factors that create stress for people. When I see people for private sessions, we often start by catching up on how they’re feeling before we start yoga. This is meant to be a question that touches on how they’re feeling physically, but often people will mention things that are creating stress.
One of the common themes is that almost every person mentions on-the-job stress. They mention it in the context of something that affects them physically as well as mentally and emotionally. They speak of challenging bosses, working with difficult people, the stress of travel and the guilt of missing things happening with their family due to work responsibilities.
We can’t change our need to work but we CAN change our approach to work and the triggers and situations that create stress. Here are ten things you can do right now to change your approach to your job:
- Stay at the level of the head, not the heart. When we take things personally at work, it interferes with our ability to take action. It also brings the ego, our life history, judgment and other emotions into it. As things happen in your day, look for ways to solve problems, get things done and create opportunity without creating drama. Drama is exhausting and will only increase your stress
- Recognize that you can’t change them, but you can change your reaction to them. People don’t change when they cross the threshold into the office. If they’re dysfunctional in some way, that will show up in their job. Their approach to life also carries into their work. If they’re a free thinker, disorganized or a control freak, you’ll see those behaviors. Don’t waste energy being frustrated at how THEY are, change YOUR approach to them (This holds mainly for people to whom you report but might apply as well to colleagues with whom you need to collaborate).
- Do your best in whatever it is you’re doing. Whether you work independently or as part of a team, do your best. Going home at night knowing that you did a good job is a great way to feel good about your job.
- Always have an exit strategy. Even when things are going well, have an eye out for your next step. In today’s ever-changing economy, this just makes good business sense. Keep your resume current, keep your network fresh, use online tools to identify new opportunities. When you’re in a job you hate, this is even more important. Actively working on an exit plan will decrease your stress at work because you’ll know you’re putting your needs first. This isn’t a reason to let your work slide but it’s a way to keep things balanced.
- Don’t gossip or spend time with colleagues who do. Gossip is draining. There’s nothing productive about it, it’s a waste of time and it’ll most likely get back to the person referenced in the conversation. Much of decreasing stress at work is related to managing your own energy and spending it wisely. To gossip is an energy drain. Also, the people most often doing it aren’t positive or productive.
- Say “no” but offer an alternative. Saying “no,” even to your boss, is a healthy way to set boundaries. Just as in any relationship, you need to have them or you’ll be steamrolled into doing things you can’t fit into your current list of responsibilities or things that take you away from important personal commitments. When you do say “no,” have an alternative plan in mind. Do not feel the need to justify your response with the excuse. Stay focused on what you can do instead.
- Don’t put in writing anything you could not publish online. We create stress when we react before thinking. In today’s world, this is often experienced through an email sent that should have been thought through first. Act as if anything you send in an email could be viewed by the whole world and you could stand behind it.
- Exercise regularly. It’s no secret that exercise is a great stress reliever. Make time to exercise during your week to physically release the tension built up from your job.
- Feel your feet, take deep breathing breaks, get up from your desk and move. Throughout the day, take time to step away from your desk. Use deep breathing as a way to stay connected to your body. Practice mindfulness around how you carry yourself throughout the day. Walk slowly, breath deeply and choose your words intentionally.
- Protect your time. This is related to the tip above about saying “no” to certain things. You can block your calendar, decline meetings after or before a certain time and commit to leaving work at a reasonable hour without feeling the need to make an excuse to your colleagues. The more you’re willing to give to your job in terms of time and effort, the more your job will take (at least in most jobs). If you don’t want to be overworked, protect your time as much as you can. If you find this is impossible, it’s a good thing you’re looking for another one.
The less stress you have at work, the greater your health. You have more control than you think. It all begins with you.