6 ways to handle stress, burnout and anxiety in the workplace

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work throughout their lifetime, and much of that time is positive. It’s where we make new friends or find new love, it’s where we find fulfilment and purpose, and it’s what lets us afford a Sunday morning coffee or a Tuesday night pizza.

Work is good for us, but sure enough, it has its downsides, and stress, burnout and anxiety are all too common in today’s whirlwind world of work.

Here’s how to handle stress, burnout and anxiety at work so that can get on with what’s important: the task at hand.

1. Allow yourself the time to disconnect from work

First and foremost, work doesn’t (and shouldn’t) define you. It’s a thing you do during your day that (hopefully) you find enjoyment in, and that pays you to live a happy, well-balanced life.

Even if you’re an executive or a business owner, compartmentalisation from work is critical to dealing with stress.

Oftentimes, we develop feelings of stress, burnout and anxiety because we’re working too much and we’re letting work get in the way of life. To counter this, you must find activities that disconnect you from your job.

Find a hobby away from people you work with and that’s different to the regular things you do at work. If you sit in a chair and look at screens all day, for example, find a sport or do something with your hands.

Whatever it is, splitting your work from your life will help you compartmentalise and recharge, which, in turn, will help you alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety and burnout.

2. Focus on one task at a time

A Stanford study discovered that people who multitasked were less likely to pay attention and had less control over their memory. And in today’s world of instant messaging, social media and ‘online-ness’, many people fail to…

What were we saying? Oh yes: Monotasking is the key to dealing with stress and anxiety when at work. There are many benefits of focusing on one thing at a time. Firstly, you’ll get more done and you’ll do it better. Secondly, you’ll increase your creativity and fulfilment in work. And lastly, you’ll work smarter, make less mistakes and become more productive.

Here are eight ways to monotask.

3. Take regular and active breaks

Happiness - Camino Recovery Spain

Sedentary lifestyles are killing us, and the ‘sitting disease’, as it’s often called, can lead to health issues like heart disease, obesity and even cancer. Not only that, but sedentary lifestyles can increase the risk of depression and make us more stressed and anxious in our day-to-day lives.

To counter this, take regular and active breaks. Stuck on a work problem? Go for a walk outside and leave your phone at your desk. On a lunch break? Go outside and buy some food, don’t order straight to your desk.

The brain is like a super-computer, and it must process the information that it ingests. By taking regular and active breaks away from our screens, we can think about our problems and begin to work on solutions, which will help stave off burnout and make us less stressed and anxious.

4. Speak to people in the office

In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States alone, and many people feel left out, isolated and alone. In fact, loneliness has become so bad among the millennial generation that it has now become an epidemic.

Loneliness causes us a great deal of anxiety and stress because we begin to catastrophise and fail to rationalise problems. Consequently, we feel judged by what others say and think about us and we begin to question whether we’re to blame for the lack of community in our lives.

But work is a community of its own and talking to people can offer perspective and help us feel less alone with our problems.

5. Simplify what you do, and do it well

As the old adage goes, ‘less is more’. When we’re working, it’s easy to try and please our bosses by saying ‘yes’ to new challenges and taking on new things. But, ultimately, this leaves us with too much to do and not enough time to do it, and what you’re left with is a lot of half-baked tasks that fail to please and reflect on your performance.  

It might not always be easy, but by saying ‘no’ to more things, you’ll have more time to do the things that you do well, and you’ll find more job fulfilment and satisfaction from doing a job well done. Busyness causes stress, and stress causes burnout. Find a balance that works for you between ‘bored and under-challenged’ and ‘busy and overwhelmed’, but never take on more than you can handle.

6. Know how to spot when you’re overwhelmed

Workplace stress and coping

As we write this, we realise that it is easier said than done to talk about how to handle stress and anxiety in the workplace than it is to actually implement actionable things that manage stress.

But, as you begin to recognise feelings of stress, anxiety and burnout, it’s important to have a few cards up your sleeve to help you manage those feelings. That might include turning to apps like Headspace or Calm for a 10-minute meditation session, or it might simply be to turn everything off, close your eyes and perform some breathing exercises. Whatever it is, find something that works for you and use it when those all too common feelings strike.

Lastly, stave away from the free coffee

We’re all aware of the impact coffee has on our bodies. It raises our heartrates, makes us feel jittery and causes us to feel more stressed and anxious.

While almost everybody enjoys a cup of coffee – we globally consume about two billion cups of coffee per day – it’s important to recognise that this might be triggering feelings of stress and anxiety. If it is, switch it out for decaffeinated coffee or tea instead.

Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in feeling stressed or anxious when you’re working, and it’s important to recognise when to stop and recharge and to work out how to manage these feelings. Only then can you begin to move forward and take control.

To find out more about dealing with stress, anxiety and burnout, read more from our blog.


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