These days, stress and work often go hand in hand. Many of us can’t even imagine what our jobs would be like if they didn’t stress us out at least a little bit. In fact, a recent survey conducted for the American Institute of Stress found that more than 80% of Americans find at least one aspect of their jobs stressful.
Although many factors contributing to work-related stress are out of one’s control, there are many habits we engage in that can make our work days all the more nerve-racking. Here are nine bad habits at work that could be increasing your job stress, along with some suggestions on ways to overcome them:
Waiting until the last possible minute to do something isn’t good for anybody’s nerves. Studies show that people who procrastinate have higher stress levels, lower overall well-being, and poorer performance outcomes than those who tackle a task right away.
The best way to combat procrastination is to just get started. Even if you don’t finish what you start, getting the ball rolling helps and makes the overall project less daunting. Just do it; don’t wait. If you put everything off to the last minute, you’re certain to feel more stressed, not to mention you leave little room for revision or error.
2. Running Late
Let’s face it: running late is stressful. When you’re already late, it seems like everything takes longer, traffic is heavier, and people move slower. If you are always running late and in a hurry, you’re constantly stressing yourself out. Who wants to start their work day feeling stressed?
Break this habit by getting started 10 or even five minutes earlier. Conceptualize how much time you think you need to get ready, and then simply add 10 minutes (or five) to it. Those extra minutes will provide the leeway you need to help remain calm on the way to work, which inevitably impacts the rest of your day.
3. Not Taking Breaks
To maintain low stress levels, take a break! Breaks are important for maintaining your mental health.
If you think skipping breaks makes you more productive, think again. It can actually have the opposite effect. Studies have shown that taking regular breaks increases both productivity and creativity. Think of the mind like you would a muscle. If you overwork your muscles, they get fatigued. The same goes for your brain. It needs rest, too.
4. Poor Planning
When you leave work at the end of each day, you should have a general outline of tasks for the next morning. If you go in each day without a plan of action, you’ll be less productive, end up wasting time, and increase your stress in the long run when you have difficulty keeping up with your workload.
Decrease your stress by coming to work prepared and acknowledging your duties first thing in the morning or whenever you arrive. One of the last things you should do each day is make a to-do list of work that needs to be done the next day. There are many tools available to help with this, such as a traditional planner or an app that will help you keep you on task (there are several).
5. Focusing on the Negative
If you’re constantly complaining about your boss, your workload, or your coworkers, you’re making your job more difficult. Complaining alone rarely solves anything; it just brings you and those around you down. In the workplace, attitude is very much contagious.
You can’t hate what you do 40-plus hours a week and keep your stress levels low.
Complaining in small amounts can be healthy; it allows us to vent our frustrations and acknowledge our feelings. But when you make a habit of complaining, it can start to wreak havoc on your life and affect your coworkers. To change this habit, consider spending a few moments at the end of each day (after writing your to-do list for tomorrow) thinking and writing down up to three things that were positive about your work day. Maybe you exceeded productivity, maybe you helped a customer, or maybe you helped a coworker with something he or she was struggling with. Jot it down and remove yourself from the negative thought patterns we all fall into when situations in life seem crummy.
6. Hating Your Job
Consider that you will spend almost a third of your adult life at work. If you really can’t stand your job and find yourself dreading every Monday morning, you might want to consider looking for another job or changing careers. You can’t hate what you do 40-plus hours a week and keep your stress levels low.
To change this habit and get your life moving in a direction that brings you greater satisfaction, consider finding a therapist or career counselor to work with. If you meet with a therapist, he or she may be able to help you discover emotional or behavioral issues that contribute to your job dissatisfaction. A career counselor may help you discover something more in line with your values, work ethic, and interests.
7. Bringing Work Home with You
Sometimes, circumstances make working at home unavoidable. When you can, however, leave your work at work.
In modern society, many of us carry our phones, laptops, or tablets with us regularly. This helps us facilitate work in different ways, but it can also take away time spent with family, relaxing, or performing other self-care activities. If you find yourself answering work calls at the dinner table, make an effort to ditch the digital leash. If you can minimize the amount of time you think about work when you aren’t at work, you’ll likely find that your work-related stress will decrease.
8. Sitting All Day
Some studies indicate that working at a desk or sitting at work all day is about as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes. Sitting for prolonged periods puts an incredible amount of pressure on the spine and increases tension within the body. This often manifests as physical stress, which releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can be responsible for weight gain, physical health problems, and can affect your mental health as well.
The best way to break this habit is to simply get moving. Make it a point to stand for at least one hour a day or do an exercise on your break. Walk around your building, take the stairs throughout the day, or take a walk after dinner. While seated at work, you can also make sure you keep good posture and stretch regularly. Adding some activity throughout the day can also benefit your productivity.
9. Neglecting Work-Life Balance
It’s easy to get caught up in our careers and neglect other areas of our lives. If you find you’re working too much and playing too little, make the time in your life for recreation to help decrease your stress levels. If you’re able to take a vacation, consider it an investment in your health.
It is important to maintain a work-life balance. In addition to recreational activities, consider whether you are making enough time for your family or friends. If you continually focus on work and don’t take care of your other needs, you’re bound to end up feeling stressed. You need to always be practicing self-care or stress will take its toll.
If Work Stress Is Getting the Best of You, Help Is Available
Stress can be detrimental to your health. It is the root cause in many instances of mental and physical health issues, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, weight gain/loss, concentration issues, and memory impairment. Interestingly, many researchers also say that work is the most significant cause of stress among American adults.
Breaking the aforementioned habits can help you drastically reduce your work-related stress, but sometimes you might need to do deeper work emotionally, behaviorally, or cognitively to break a negative thought pattern or get back to a place where you can function at your best. Because of this, many therapists and mental health professionals are trained to help people cope with and overcome workplace issues. If you find that work-related stress is impacting your life in a negative way, consider reaching out to a mental health professional to increase your satisfaction and happiness at your current job, or to help you get on the path to a new, more fulfilling one.
- Jaffe, Eric. (2013). Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination. Association of Psychological Science. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013/april-13/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination.html
- Korkki, Phyllis. (2012, June 16). To Stay on Schedule, Take a Break. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/jobs/take-breaks-regularly-to-stay-on-schedule-workstation.html?_r=0
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, July 11). Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037?pg=1
- Workplace Stress. The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/
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