Lay-offs, increased workloads, and 24 hour 7 days a week access to work email- there are lots of reasons to feel work stress. When feeling stressed at work, you have a few options to help yourself: There are things you can change about yourself and there are changes you can make at work.
First, figure out how you are feeling and why. Often projects become busier and more stressful over time. As deadlines move up and tasks add up over time, we don’t always realize how hard we are working and how much work is taking out of us. Make sure to lift your head up from work now and then and assess how you are feeling and how much of your time and energy is going into work. Recognize what about work is stressful. It may be constantly responding to work emails at home, a new busy project, increased work hours, or changes in your department.
Making lifestyle changes can help when dealing with stress. Taking care of yourself is important and can let you calmly deal with what’s going on at work. Taking the time to exercise or take a walk can clear your head and help relieve tension.
It’s too easy to eat junk food when you are busy like hitting the vending machines or ordering greasy food which will not make you feel better in the long run. Trying to order healthy meals when you’re out or making big batches of good for you dinners to eat throughout the week are a couple of ways to treat yourself well.
Setting aside time to see family and friends allows you to keep in contact with the people who matter to you. Signing up for a Saturday morning swim class with your child or early morning yoga class with a friend ensures you make the time and not letting relationships fall through the cracks.
At work, you can make changes, too. If your project has temporarily become all-consuming, see if some of your regular tasks can be reassigned for a little while. While finishing a report, someone else from your department may be able to attend the safety committee meeting or take over purchase orders for the next week or two.
If your department is taking on more and more work, find out the long term plans for your division. If your manager is receptive, discuss work-loads and determine if more personnel should be hired if the work flow continues to increase. Adding equipment could increase efficiency and your manager might be receptive to that idea. Even simply setting up calendars to schedule instrument use could lessen the stress and workload in the lab.
If lay-offs or big changes are happening, try to set up channels of communication with your manager but avoid becoming too involved in office gossip. Be proactive and network with associates on sites like LinkedIn or on the ACS Network.
Remember to be aware of how you are feeling, and even small steps can make a big difference in alleviating some of the stress you are feeling.
This article was written by Sara Stellfox. After working in contract and pharmaceutical laboratories, Sara changed her career path and is now a free lance writer and chemistry instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago.