5 proven strategies to reduce stress at work

In Culture and news, Innovation and leadership by James Deem

This week at Deem’s HQ we celebrated Wellness Week. Each day was filled with healthy tips and activities. One of our best-attended events was a workshop about how to reduce work-life stress by life coach extraordinaire, Jackie Welch of TIRO.

According to recent research, over 70% of Americans admit to feeling stress at work. (We can only guess what mystical, magical job the other 30% have.) Stress can affect us in so many different ways. It can affect not only our bodies, like tight shoulders or upset stomachs, but it can have a huge impact on the quality of our work and our overall job satisfaction. Reducing work-life stress can not only improve your job, but it can improve our overall health. And the research proves it — 75% of overall healthcare costs are directly related to stress.

Here are five key ways to reduce your stress at work:

1. Learn to unplug.

As much as we all hate to admit it, we have been trained. How many of us put our phones by our beds? Studies have been saying for years now that sleeping with our mobile devices next to us leads to poor sleep quality. Yet, most of us still have that lil’ blue light by our bed.

How many of us put an OOO message that ends with “if you really need to reach me, you can call me at ____”? Or how many of us work the “second shift” from 9-11pm? You know that time slot after dinner, once the kids have gone to bed, and you can open your laptop to work in peace. In fact, according to a 2015 Workplace Options survey, 59% of American workers say they use their mobile devices to do work after normal business hours. And for those of us that check our work email right before we go to sleep, it can take often require an additional 30+ minutes to unwind before the sandman comes-a-calling. Yikes!

It’s time to train ourselves to unplug. Leave that phone out of the bedroom. Buy an actual alarm clock instead of using your mobile device. Charge your phone in the living room instead of your bedroom. Learn to step away from work after work hours. After all, no one ever said on that one of their biggest regrets was that they didn’t work enough.

2. Change the channel.

Another trained behavior is our gut reactions. For example, tensing up every time that one very abrupt coworker speaks up at a meeting. Or running every time you see that meter maid approaching your parking spot. Over time, our bodies have a Pavlovian response to our stressful triggers. It’s up to us to retrain our bodies to respond differently. But in order to do that, we need to first know our triggers. Next time you’re stressed, take a big deep breath. Think about why you became stressed in the first place. Was there a trigger present that you could untrain?

Think about the world of TV before on demand and DVRs. When you hit a show that you didn’t like, you just changed the channel. It was easy – one click, one decision. If changing the channel is so easy, then why is it difficult for us to change our thoughts? It’s up to you to own your stress. Instead of hiding from it, go back and identify what’s causing the stress. Organize your thoughts, and put an action plan in place. Learn to change the channel.

3. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

TED speaker, Karen Tilstra, talks about two very powerful words — “yes and.” Many of us spread ourselves too thin by saying yes to everything. However, it’s ok to say “no.” Try it. Say “no” out loud. Did you feel that boost in confidence? “No” is a powerful word, but it can be difficult to say “no” in work situations. Instead, try saying “yes, and…”

For example, your boss asks you to drop everything and handle a “fire drill”. You want to say “no,” but you know that you can’t. Try saying “Yes, and _” — “Yes, I can do that for you right now, and it will delay this other project I am working on for you.” You’ll find that by saying “Yes, and _”, you have not only showed that you have listened to their request, but you have also laid out the consequences — helping to not spread yourself too thin.

If all else fails, remember one other thing — some things need to be outsourced.

4. Build relationships with your coworkers.

Do you know what stresses your coworkers out? We’re not talking about deadlines or SQL goals. What really stresses them out? Do they have a child who is struggling in school or an aging parent? By getting to know when and why your coworkers are stressed, you can develop deeper and more understanding relationships.

5. Compare yourself to yourself, not others around you.

While Facebook and other social media outlets are commonly viewed as light and fun breaks during your workday, they can also be triggers for stress. You scroll through the feed and see that your bestie is riding an elephant in Thailand right now, and only last month she was snorkeling in Fiji. What are you doing wrong? Why are you slaving away in the office for twelve hour days but she has this perfect life?

The answer is very simple. Nobody has a perfect life. They just want you to think they do. Do you think your bestie is posting pictures of herself with mascara streaking down her face while stuffing her face with a pot of Ben and Jerry’s after her boyfriend broke up with her? I think not. If you are feeling stressed, set goals and do something about it. You’ll find that when you measure yourself against yourself and start to see how meeting your goals reduce your stress level, then the sky is the limit.

The only people who are not stressed are deceased. Stress comes and goes in our lives. It can impact our work, our happiness, and our health. But in the end, it all will pass. So next time you are really stressed out, remember “this too shall pass.”

About the Author
James Deem

James Deem

James Deem will make the opposition green with envy as he highlights our awesome social events, casts a spotlight on our amazing collection of talent, and provides potential hires with insight into who we are, what we do, and why Deem is one of the hottest places to work in San Francisco. Keep an eye on the culture blog for frequent updates on all things Deem.