How to Deal With a Stressful Job

Five Methods:Managing Your Time and TasksScheduling Your DayHandling ConflictTaking Care of Your HealthManaging Extremely Stressful Situations

Issues surrounding inadequate pay, the threat of being laid off, antagonistic coworkers, excessive workloads, or monotonous or uninspiring work, can cause job stress. Even the very nature of a job, such as firefighting, nursing, or enlisted military personnel [1] will mean that much of your working hours will be spent under extreme stress. These stressors can result in lack of motivation, anxiety, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Finding ways to manage your time, tasks and conflict will help you manage this stress.

Method 1
Managing Your Time and Tasks

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    Make a list of tasks to do. Having a task list in front of you will help you see which have higher priority than others. Do these tasks first and systematically cross other items off your list.
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    Break a large task into manageable pieces. When a project has multiple parts, it can seem overwhelming. Break it down into smaller pieces so that you can observe the progress that you’re making.[2]
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    Pause before you take on more work. If you plan to volunteer to take on more work, or you are asked to add an extra project, pause for a minute to consider what this will do to your current workload. Calculate how much time you are devoting to various projects and figure out if you have extra time to handle more.[3]
    • If you don’t have time to handle more, talk with your supervisor. Offer to take on the new project if another project can be delegated to someone else.
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    Have realistic expectations. Understanding what can be realistically accomplished in a given time frame will help you reframe your expectations. If you find that your expectations are not being met, think about how you might adjust deadlines and project goals. Get feedback from your supervisor to strategize ways to devise realistic expectations.[4]
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    Find allies at work. Having people in your corner can help you handle stress. It can help to have someone to talk to, and who can push for your best interests.
    • Having allies will require that you do the same for other people, so choose people you trust and whose abilities you can count on.

Method 2
Scheduling Your Day

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    Leave 10-15 minutes early in the morning. Avoid rushing in to work by taking a few extra minutes in the morning for your commute. By taking more time, you won’t need to hurry and therefore won’t start the day trying to catch your breath.
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    Minimize interruptions. External communications like emails and phone calls take up more work time than ever before.[5] With instant communications, workers feel more pressure to respond immediately to issues that arise at a moment’s notice. In addition, working in open-plan offices can make it more difficult to get the space you need to focus on a task. When you’re inundated with requests for your attention, take steps to eliminate, redirect or postpone some of them.
    • Close your office door when you need to focus. If someone comes by your desk to chat, tactfully let them know that you have a pressing deadline and you can’t chat now.[6]
    • Develop a policy about which emails need to be answered immediately and which can wait. For example, you probably will answer emails from your boss immediately, but emails about contributing to the departmental silent auction can wait.
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    Schedule breaks throughout your day. You may strive to maintain a high level of productivity all day, but you can refresh your thinking and energy by taking breaks throughout the day. Stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and take a short break from your work.[7]
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    Maintain a realistic schedule. Figure out which things you absolutely have to do at both work and home. Determine which things are not necessary and eliminate them from your schedule.[8]
    • Don’t schedule things so that every moment of your day is taken up. Give yourself time to take breaks. This will also help create a buffer in case a certain activity takes longer than you thought.
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    Draw boundaries. When your job is demanding and you want to perform well, it’s difficult to say no. You might feel like you need to be available all the time, answering emails after work and on the weekends. Maintaining a balance, however, will help reduce stress so that you don’t feel like you’re working all the time.[9]
    • Try making rules for yourself about what you won’t do at home, such as not answering work emails or phone calls during off hours.

Method 3
Handling Conflict

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    Pick your battles. Determine if confronting someone will accomplish anything, or if it is not worth the energy. If the problem seems like it’s a one-time occurrence, it may be worth overlooking it, especially if it’s minor.[10]
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    Defuse problems before they become conflicts. If you’re noticing a problem that is festering, nip it in the bud before it grows into a full-fledged conflict.[11] Addressing a problem earlier will reduce longer-term stress and potential fallout from the conflict.
    • For example, if you see two of your employees constantly bickering, bring each one individually into your office to get to the root of the arguments.
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    Use “I” statements. Skip blaming your coworkers or clients for problems that cause conflict. Instead, use neutral language that expresses your viewpoint, which is more respectful and professional than accusing others.[12]
    • For example, say, “I get frustrated when I am unable to complete the next phase of the project that others have missed deadlines for.”
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    Stay calm if there’s a confrontation. Maintain a professional attitude and take deep breaths to stay calm. Don’t resort to name-calling or accusations. Even if the other person is engaging in this behavior, demonstrate your professionalism by rising above it.[13]
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    Maintain good communication. If you aren’t communicating well with your supervisor or coworkers, stressful situations can intensify. Schedule a brief meeting with the person to talk about your issue. Be positive and offer solutions that will be helpful to all parties.[14]

Method 4
Taking Care of Your Health

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    Exercise regularly. Fend off tension and stress by exercising a few times a week. Go for a jog or hit the gym to work off extra negative energy caused by stress.[15]
    • Yoga is another good option for relaxing your body and relieving stress.
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    Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. When you are not well-rested, you are not as well-prepared to handle stress. Aim to get around 7-8 hours of sleep every night to ensure that you feel tip-top in the morning.
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    Eat well. Give your body good nutrition by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid refined sugars and refined carbohydrates.[16], [17] Eat breakfast every morning, and have small, frequent meals throughout the day to keep your energy level up.
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    Drink plenty of water. Feeling dehydrated can drag your energy levels down, which can compromise how you handle stress. Drink 6-8 eight-ounce glasses of water every day to ensure that your body is hydrated.[18]
    • If you eat fruits and vegetables, this will raise your fluid consumption. You get approximately 20% of your daily fluid intake from the foods you eat.
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    Moderate your alcohol and nicotine consumption. While alcohol and cigarettes might feel like momentary stress reducers, they can actually cause or increase anxiety and worry. Don’t rely on these to get you through stressful days.[19]
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    Try meditation. Taking time every day to meditate, even for 5-10 minutes, can help reduce stress levels and reduce negative thinking, especially for high-pressure jobs like nursing and firefighting.[20], [21]
    • To meditate, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Breathe deeply, inhaling for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 4. Focus on your breath, repeating this process.
    • When your mind starts to wander, refocus on your breath, and continue counting out your breaths.

Method 5
Managing Extremely Stressful Situations

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    Work as a team. Many extremely stressful job conditions require that you work as part of a team in order to get the job done, such as in the military or in a hospital. When personalities clash, the team environment can become strained. Learn to work as a team and to trust your team. Let go of your ego in order to provide the best service to the work environment.[22]
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    Stay away from social media if you’re in the public eye. For those individuals whose work is scrutinized by the public, such as CEOs, public relations executives, athletes, actors and others, stress can be partially managed by staying away from social media. The ease and accessibility of communicating through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms is a double-edged sword. You can immediately hear positive – and negative – feedback. Staying away from social media will eliminate the stressors of hearing the negative feedback.[23]
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    Be organized and have a plan. When working in extremely stressful situations, whether you are a firefighter, celebrity or celebrity agent, or you are in another high-stress job, try to anticipate problems and plan for the unexpected. Have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Being organized will help you overcome the stress of situations that may be impacted by things that you can’t control.
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    Get a hobby. Take up a hobby to distract your mind and relax in your off-hours. A calming hobby like knitting or building models can be a good way to decompress.[24]
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    Build a support network. Share your concerns with others in your situation, and listen to theirs as well. It’s helpful to have people to talk with about your stress. It’s often especially useful to have a support network in the midst of your work environment who understand your working conditions and the stress attached. Find people you trust in your work environment.[25]


  • Try personalizing your workspace. Decorating your office or desk with a few photographs, artwork or knickknacks may help make your work environment more relaxing and inviting.[26]

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Categories: Workplace Conflicts Coping and Issues