Workplace stress can follow you home like a piece of chewing gum on the sole of your shoe – and the symptoms can be as difficult to address as their causes. Before grinding tension damages your health, your self worth, and your relationships at home, look for ways to identify and manage your stressors.
What’s causing all that stress?
Job insecurity equals personal tension, as fear of layoffs leaves people feeling on edge. Whether the fear stems from announced possibilities or less-rational causes, the fact that you can’t do anything about it makes it even more difficult to cope. In the aftermath of staff cutbacks, inheriting other people’s work on top of your own deadlines can be just as stressful.
Pressure to perform prompts concerns over your ability to meet standards that you fear may exceed your capabilities. At the same time, a long list of workplace tasks leads to multitasking, which can leave you feeling dizzy at the length of your to-do list. Disorganization and clutter only worsen the feeling of overwork. Conflict with coworkers also leads to the kind of stress that lingers after you walk out the door, as does an unergonomic workspace that leaves you with a backache.
Bottom line: The leading causes of stress at work stem from things that leave you feeling a lack of control over one of the most important aspects of your life.
How the stress shows up in your life
Workplace stress yields a wide range of impacts with the potential to affect how you feel and how you interact with your family. The worries can leave you anxious, depressed, irritable, and tired, with trouble sleeping and an inability to concentrate. Headaches and physical tension can come along for the ride, along with digestive problems. Emotionally, this stress produces a desire to withdraw from others, a loss of interest in physical intimacy, and reduced involvement in activities that you formerly would have enjoyed.
Some people attempt to distance themselves from this litany of discomfort and discombobulation through tobacco use, alcohol, drugs, food binges, gambling, compulsive shopping, and a long list of other substances and behaviors. At best, these choices yield a momentary sense of relief, followed by even more stress.
Going from hoping to coping
The first step toward regaining your balance is to figure out when your stress climbs and exactly what triggers these feelings. For a week or two, record your stressors in a journal and look for patterns in your notes. Are you reacting to a specific type of task or situation? Once you find these causes, you can decide what to do about them, from rearranging your desk to talking with your supervisor about ways to manage your workflow.
Three of the first aspects of life to suffer also are three important ways to help yourself feel better: Lack of sleep, insufficient exercise, and poor nutrition can all magnify your stress. Sleep helps your body restore itself, and exercise not only builds strength but helps release hormones that contribute to feeling good. To enhance your rest, avoid late-night tasks and entertainment that stimulate rather than relax your mind around bedtime.
Likewise, try to steer away from three things that can make your stress even worse. Office gossip can magnify negative feelings and drag you into antagonistic situations that you’re better off avoiding. Perfectionism pushes you toward an inability to find value in your performance – and arbitrary standards of achievement that no one can satisfy. When you take the time to avoid focusing on negatives and instead identify and celebrate your accomplishments, you regain the ability to view yourself in a positive light.
Do some homework
At home, take some highly practical steps toward feeling better. Train yourself to leave early enough to avoid a mad dash to the office that starts your day off on the wrong foot. Experiment with relaxation techniques, from yoga and breathing exercises to meditation and mindfulness. Do your best to leave work at the office, and avoid checking for messages and status updates instead of being fully present with your family.
From calming your mind to feeding your self worth, make your emotional health a priority – and find ways to disconnect your work life from your home life. Your family time deserves to be as much of a priority as your job.