IN THE MIDDLE | career advancement

Doable Things to Try When Workplace Stress Gets Too Much

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published April 29, 2022

Have you checked in with yourself today?

With so much still happening around us on top of the various things that occupy our respective plates, it's easy to forget to check in with ourselves and it's easier to feel exhausted. If you can relate and are feeling a little too tired, you're not alone. Everyone has felt different levels of pressure from work and responsibilities at some point. And while I know each of us is trying in our own little ways to relieve the stress and keep going, it can still be quite dragging. There will still be days when it's extra hard to get out of bed or do pretty much anything. Don't worry; we're here for you. Here are a few reminders of the simple ways to reduce your stress level and move forward with greater ease:

Start your day on a positive note.

To be or not to be stressed is not exactly a choice, but we do have a choice when it comes to how we handle pressure and manage stressful situations, and what better way to be in control of such than to start our day on a positive note? After all, mornings mean a brand new day, so take it as it is.

I know not everyone is a morning person and an ideal morning looks different for each of us. That's why it's important to do you – create your own good habits, choose to start the day by not being all cranky and naggy, and be grateful for yet another day – to be in the best state of mind possible first thing in the morning. Before you head to work or wherever your itinerary is for the day, try to do a little stretching when you wake up, don't forget to hydrate, get your daily vitamin D from the sun, and let your mind breathe and wander. You can also pick up your favorite caffeine fix and enjoy it by drinking it slowly, or take five minutes to meditate, or even read a newspaper or a book chapter. And another way to wake up on the right side of the bed is by practicing good sleeping habits so you don't wake up grumpy.

I know all these sound basic, but there's no harm in reminding you that you have a choice to be positive and in control; you just have to take the first step.

Understand what's really expected of you.

Being clueless about what's really expected of you and getting in situations where your role keeps on changing or you're tasked with extra work that's not really a part of your daily deliverables in so little time can leave you distraught and frustrated. It can really mess up your day and eventually take a toll on your mental health. No wonder not knowing what's really expected of you is one of the most common factors of job burnout.

If you find yourself in this situation, you might want to seek clarification from your superior. This way, you can take the time to go over the scope of your role, discuss strategies to meet their expectations, and understand where you can draw the line for the sake of your well-being and sanity. Doing so can actually relieve stress not just for you but your boss as well!

Set your priorities straight, manage your time, and learn to set healthy boundaries.

Assuming that you'd follow the tip above, you're then basically done with the reset and are now ready to refocus. It's now time to effectively reprioritize and become better at handling and managing the one thing that almost everyone can't get enough of (aside from money) – time.

There are many ways to spend your time wisely and accomplish more to achieve the 'work smarter, not harder' mindset. What's important, however, is having a system that works for you, establishing clear guidelines to set your tasks accordingly based on importance and urgency, and creating healthy boundaries at work and with your colleagues.

You can start small by:

▸ organizing a daily to-do list, 

▸ following and updating that list religiously to track your progress as well (consistency is key), 

▸ focusing on a project or task either according to importance, priority level, or difficulty level, one at a time,

▸ politely saying 'no' to extra work (and maybe to interpersonal conflicts at work) and saying yes only when you mean yes, and 

▸ pushing back deadlines if necessary.

The last bit can be pretty difficult and intimidating to put into practice, but if you want to reduce the pressure that work has on your back, you'll have to speak up and set boundaries to have others respect your time. Pressure from an impending deadline can give off two different vibes depending on your personality: motivation or stress. In most cases, they're a mix of both, but with the former only kicking in at the last minute. Therefore, deadlines are often associated with stress, but that can change if you have what I mentioned earlier about a defined system that'd help one work efficiently.

Take a real break.

It's summer! Don't let your vacation time go unused! Go bask in the sun and take a well-deserved break to destress. It's important to take a real cut from work and break the routine every once in a while. So, whatever your plan is, whether it's a vacation, a staycation, a playcation, or even just some time to read, disconnect, and get some fresh air, allow yourself.

Nowadays, we often feel like we are not doing enough when in reality, we often do. Give yourself a break. Life is not all about working but rather a matter of balance. So, go ahead and work on your priorities at work, but don't forget to make yourself and your comfort a priority of yours as well.