Work on one thing at a time
Work stress sometimes stems from pressure to finish everything at the same time. Today’s office worker actually changes tasks an average of every three minutes. Such a lightning-speed day of interruptions is helped along by the multi-tasking made possible by computers. Working on eight things at once might seem impressive, but it isn’t. Rather, it is exhausting, inefficient, and highly stressful. So, instead of constantly checking emails, having two or three documents open on your screen, or returning emails as they come in, structure your day to focus on one thing at a time. In particular, start your day by blocking out two hours for uninterrupted hands-on work. During this time, do not answer your phone or check emails. Then check emails and respond all at once. Go to lunch. Structure your afternoon in the same way. Designate a time immediately after lunch and an hour before you leave for returning calls. These are silent signs that stress is making you sick.
Work in short bursts
The flip side to multi-tasking is that it is hard to sustain creativity or intensity on one task for long stretches. Rather, our brains work in cycles of creativity, then take a rest. So try this: after an hour or so of concentrated work, get up for five minutes, walk around, do some stretches. Not only will this help the quality of your work and decrease stress at work, but by the time you finish your day, you’ll have fitted in 30 minutes of stress-reducing exercise.
Deal directly, but constructively, with difficult workplace relationships
“Toxic people” are those whose negativity or demeanor seems to drain or annoy you. This might be your boss, your assistant, your colleague—in other words, they are people with whom you frequently interact. After a negative encounter with a toxic person, the temptation is to be angry and accusatory. But that leads nowhere. Instead, try this direct, honest, and disarming approach: “I am finding our interactions stressful because of [blank] and am feeling bad about [blank]. I would like our working relationship to improve. What suggestions do you have for me?” Even if you feel that the other person is the one who should change, by asking for his or her suggestions, you avoid putting that person on the defensive. If your colleague is even a little bit reasonable, this might make him or her admit, “Well, I suppose there are some changes I could make too.” Use these tips to make work stress management way easier.