How are your Mondays? Do you press the snooze button a time or two, snuggle beneath the covers, grasping for those last zzz’s? Do you dread the drive to work, knowing that a mound of paperwork awaits you? And your Fridays? Do they taunt you mid-week, making you crave for a little carefree time away from the office? Like right now? Perhaps you have work-related stress. You are not alone, for it’s a condition most Americans suffer from at some point or another. If you’d like more joy and peace at work, as well as increase your productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness, try these 5 strategies.
Begin your day right. Do you sometimes wake up in a panic, realizing you have a million little things to do before you leave for work? You clamber over clothes strewn across the bedroom floor, clothes you were too exhausted to put away the night before. You bark at the kids to get dressed for school. You scurry to make lunches. You rush out the door, only to realize you forgot your cell phone. Sound familiar?
To avoid the morning frenzy, design the first part of your morning. That might mean getting up a half-hour earlier. You will find yourself more centered, focused, and calm. For example, I have a simple ritual called my “morning walk with Jesus.” As I walk around the block, coffee in hand, I pray. Whatever you decide, start your day with some quiet “me and God” time. It will help you get through your busy day.
Change your environment. Can’t change your job? Then change your environment. Looking at your desk, do you think “avalanche?” Old sticky notes flutter down from the walls of your cubicle like butterflies. Your stapler is lost under a stack of folders. All that clutter certainly will add to your stress. While you may not be able to light scented candles at your desk or have Mozart playing softly in the background, you can have a peaceful environment. Simplify. Get rid of what you don’t need. File and purge. Create an organization system that works for you.
Get away from it all. Did you know that the average U.S. worker’s vacation is only ten days a year? Compare that with other industrialized nations, some of where workers take anywhere from four to six weeks off. Even worse, 25% of workers don’t even take a vacation. On the other hand, research has shown that those who do take vacations are more efficient and productive, and that, on the contrary, business does not suffer. Sometimes we just need to get away from it all. Okay, maybe not from the kids, but at least from our work. Even God rested, which is saying a lot. So leave the laptop alone. Pull yourself away from the screen. Limit your cell phone usage. And repeat this mantra: “The world will not end if I take some time off.”
Delegate. Work, work work—it’s sometimes all we know to do. Part of the problem, however, is that we can horde the work like it’s all ours. It could be from pride (“I am the best at this task.”) or fear (“I’m afraid to ask her to do it. She already has too much to do.”) or confusion (“I’m not sure if this my responsibility.”). Regardless of the reason, learn to delegate, unless a task is specifically part of your job description. If you have a choice, do more of what you like and are skilled at, and delegate the rest. Sure, the job may not get done how you would have done it, but sometimes that’s the price to pay for a little sanity.
Watch for Burn-Out. You may have job stress, but are you burned out? Things to watch for include zoning out, taking your job stress home with you, having conflicts, regularly feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, and making frequent mistakes. Stress can cause burn-out and burn-out can cause stress. Get help. Some employers provide programs that deal with work-related stress. Ask yourself what the solutions are to happier, more fulfilling employment. You may discover that you need to search for a new job, change careers altogether, or take an extended vacation or sabbatical. Or the solution could be something simpler (or more obvious), such as delegating tasks or asking for a raise. Whatever the answer may be, don’t wait until you’re burned out to take action.
Having to work is not always easy or fun, and there will be times when you feel anxious and frustrated. But that doesn’t mean that suffering from chronic work-related stress is normal or that you have to put up with it. If you often feel like screaming, calling in sick, or quitting, try some of these strategies. You may discover that, surprisingly, you enjoy your work more than you thought.