5 Effective Ways to Deal With Your High-Stress Job

Published On Apr 02, 2023

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Hello, I'm Dr. John Whyte, the Chief Medical Officer at WebMD. We all deal with stress in our lives. Some can be good, but too much can cause problems. For many people, work is a major source of stress. An overbearing boss, unrealistic timelines, heavy workloads, constant fire drills affect not just your productivity, but also, your health, increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, headaches, even the common cold.

Often, you feel helpless to do anything about the stress, thinking it'll eventually get better, but you can control more than you may think in reducing the amount of stress with your job. I've got five tips for you to deal with your high stress job. Number one, deep breathing exercises. This can take place over a few seconds, and research has shown that deep breathing exercises reduce physical and mental stress in the moment.

There's different types. Personally, I like box breathing. It's four simple steps. Step one, you breathe in, counting to four slowly. You feel the air enter your lungs.

Step two is you hold your breath for four seconds. You try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for four seconds. Step three, you slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds, and step four, you repeat steps one to three, until you feel centered. You can repeat this exercise a couple of times during the day. 30 seconds, just 30 seconds of deep breathing will help you feel more relaxed and in control.

Number two, enjoy some tunes. Music can play an important role in reducing stress. Now, I'm not suggesting you blast the music from your office or cubicle, but rather, listen to your favorite song during your lunch break or listen to a tune on the way to and from the bathroom. Even just a few minutes of music can reduce the level of stress hormones in your body. For me, I found listening to music, rather than the news, on my commute helps reset mood.

Number three, set boundaries. The hybrid work environment has created challenges in terms of when the workday starts and when it ends. Many people are working longer hours, and the dividing line between personal life and work life has blurred.

We're doing calls early in the morning, emails late at night. There's no time off for your brain to recharge. Well, it's time to re-establish those boundaries. You really don't have to be checking your work email first thing in the morning. You also don't need to be doing calls at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 at night. That goes for sending and receiving emails, 10:00, 11:00 at night, 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning.

Of course, there will be some days that are exceptions, but for many people, the exception has become the norm. You need to stop blending the work in home environment. Use tools to help you set those boundaries on your schedule. Software exists that prevent emails going out late at night or early in the morning, or use that out of office notation more frequently. Let people know when you aren't available.

Number four, stop taking on extra responsibility. This might require learning how to say no. Sure, I can do that. Hey, if you want something done, ask a busy person. I want you to avoid that attitude, and self awareness is critical in reducing stress. Know your limits and what you can realistically accomplish in a time frame.

You don't need to be a superhero. Learning how and when to delegate is an important strategy to reduce stress in your job. Although we may think multitasking increases productivity, recent research suggests that having too many tasks to accomplish actually reduces efficiency and causes errors, leading to more stress. Work with your manager to do a realistic assessment of your workload and see what areas you can pare down and which you can take on additional tasks.

Number five, use all your vacation and personal time off days. Recent data shows 55% of employees don't use all their paid days off annually. Too often, it's the end of the year, and you're trying to get them all in. Instead, be proactive in scheduling some days off, perhaps, every quarter, even if it's just a mental health day that you take to recharge. Now, of course, there will be periods of time when there is high stress, but it can't be all the time or even most of the time. Your health is your wealth and taking time now to address your high stress job will pay off health dividends for quite some time.