Business Magazine

10 Ways to Beat Work Stress and Burnout

Posted on the 14 January 2014 by Classycareergirl @classycareer

I have had many moments where I have been extremely stressed at work and it sucks.  At one point in my career, I was getting calls from clients and managers every weeknight and all weekend. I would come home crying to my husband everyday. I couldn’t focus on my personal life because my work-life had taken over my entire life.  And I am not alone because according to this report from the American Institute of Stress:

  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful;
  • 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives;
  • Three fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago;
  • 29% of workers felt quite a bit or extremely stressed at work;
  • 26 percent of workers said they were “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work”;
  • Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.

I now have a schedule and job where I have eliminated most of the stress and burnout that I previously had. I had to proactively take almost all of the steps below. The most important thing is to do something about your stress instead of just letting it just get worse and worse. Because, if you don’t do anything about it, it will get so much worse!

Here are ten ways to beat work stress and burnout:

1) Pre-plan. One of the biggest mistakes people make that causes work stress is the lack of pre-planning.  You are reacting to issues and problems instead of preparing for them. One of my favorite quotes that I am focusing on this year is “Don’t manage stress. Prevent stress.” Abraham Lincoln said, “Every minute you prepare saves you three minutes.”

Actions to take: Plan your planning time. Find a specific day and time to plan out your week.  I recommend Sunday nights, first thing Monday mornings or before you leave on Friday afternoons. Figure out your most productive time and maximize your tasks and responsibilities when you are at your best.

2) Stay out of your inbox. Your inbox does not need to be turned on all day. Just because you received an email doesn’t mean it requires an immediate response. You can’t live in your inbox because you won’t get the important things done. It takes four hours to do any productive project and you won’t be able to do that if you are always reacting and putting out fires.

Actions to take: Turn off your automatic email notification. Or even better, turn your inbox offline and focus on the big tasks that need to get done. Set a schedule to check your inbox at certain times. If this is an issue with people you work with, let them know this schedule or leave an automatic out-of-office message that says, “In an effort to serve my clients, I am only checking email at….Emails will be returned at that time.” React when you want to react.

3) Get up.  Women internalize stress more and it is harder on our bodies. Women also tend to be more focused on perfectionism than men. This leads to working a lot harder and a lot longer at our desks to try to make something perfect.  If you don’t pay attention to how your body feels or whether it is time to take a break, your body will not be very happy with you. You will produce a much better result if you take that break and refresh your mind.

Actions to take: Get up at least every hour and walk around and take a drink of water.  Don’t be tied to your desk and pay attention to your body. Look for the first sign of pain while you are seated. If you are in pain, your company may have an ergonomics consultant available to check the positioning of the items in your workplace. Maybe your computer needs to be raised or your chair is too high?

4) Recognize stress. Many people don’t even realize they are stressed or figure that it is just a part of work and there is nothing they can do about it.  Stress is really the loss of control of your life.  It is setting up expectations improperly. Stress comes from other people’s pressure for you to perform or deliver.  Beating stress allows you to take more control of your life.

Actions to take: Make a list of all of the things in your life that are causing you stress. Even if it is something small. I realized that I was getting stressed by something so little as leaving for church late so that by the time we got to church every week there were hardly any seats left.  I recognized that this was causing me stress so have made changes to my morning routine every Sunday to get to church earlier, eliminating the stress that I was feeling.

5) Set boundaries and push back. One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is that they feel that their day is gone as soon as they sit down and that their days are run by other people.  As I am writing this post right now, I have a lot of emails from other people asking me to do things. But, if I go check those emails and don’t focus on writing, this post will never get done.  I will react to my emails when this post has been published.

Action to take: Learn to say no or present your boss or co-workers with reasons why you can’t do what they have asked of you.  If I have too much on my plate, I tell my client what I am currently working on and ask him if he would like me to drop it and start working on his new task. This makes him see that I already have a lot of items on my plate and I can’t do two things at once. Also, set realistic expectations. I will tell him that because I am working on this other task, I won’t be able to get to this new project until Wednesday afternoon. Is that OK with him? That way you are both on the same page and he doesn’t coming asking about it an hour later.

6) Don’t multi-task: Multi-tasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40%. Multi-tasking makes you less productive.  Women think we are really good at multi-tasking but we really aren’t accomplishing everything that we could be.

Action to take: Make a list of items you need to complete and focus on one at a time.  Turn off all the distractions and block out your calendar to only do that one item. You will be surprised at how much quicker it gets done than if you were distracted!

7) Exercise: I am always more stressed when I am not working out. This is something you must make time for. I realized this when I was training for a marathon. I thought I would have no time to train and wouldn’t have the energy to actually complete my day job. The opposite actually happened. I made time to work out AND I became so much more efficient. I had a lot more energy and my brain worked better.

Action to take: Carve out time in your schedule to workout. Put it into your calendar.  You will be more stressed if you don’t take care of yourself.  And make sure you drink lots of water during the day and lay off the caffeine.

8) Don’t try to be perfect. This is something I have struggled with a lot. I wrote a story in my new book (download a free chapter here) about when I was a manager, I thought everything had to be perfect for our clients. It wasn’t until my male boss told me, “You know, you don’t have to be perfect.” I then realized I had a much higher standard for myself than all the men on my team. I learned to give myself a break and eliminate overwhelm. Everything isn’t an emergency and I did not need an adrenaline addiction.

Action to take: Make a priority list and start saying no. Don’t worry about being a people pleaser. Not everyone will like you and not everyone will be happy with what you do and say. Strive to earn respect from the people you work with instead.

9) Get an app for that. There are so many apps that can help you stay organized and remove stress from your life.  Some great ones that I love are Evernote, Do it tomorrow, Wunderlist and Focus at will.

Action to take: Investigate the apps above or other ones and try one today.

10) Find time to decompress. How do you decompress?  I love decompressing with my girlfriends over a glass of wine. I also love to decompress with a great book or movie with my husband. If you are in a work environment that is sucking the energy out of you, make sure you also schedule time for yourself in a better environment with people who fulfill you and build you up.

Action to take: Look at your calendar for the next month and on a weekly basis (at least) schedule time in your calendar to decompress however you like.  Invite some friends over for dinner or head to the library for the day. Do what will make you happy and get your mind off of work!!

The most important thing for battling work stress is knowing your values and living an authentic life. If you are loving the work you do and are being fulfilled by it, the stress doesn’t matter. It’s fun stress.  Set your expectations and be proud of the choices that you make.

*Note from Anna: I would love to hear what you think! How do you beat stress and burnout and what action above are you going to take this week?


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