Work can be stressful. With demanding and oftentimes unrealistic expectations, it can often feel like you’re running on a hamster wheel. So, if quitting your job tomorrow isn’t a realistic option, what are some things you can do to manage the stress and feel better?
1. Start by challenging the way you think about work stress. Your mindset has a lot to do with the emotions we experience. While changing your mindset might not change that looming deadline, it is shocking as to how much of an impact it can have on your happiness level. When you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do this, it’s too much.” Try actively thinking, “this IS so overwhelming. It’s ok that I am overwhelmed. I’m doing the best I can do with the support that I have and THAT is enough.”
2. Try practicing grounding- when you feel your mind start to race with all of the things that are left on your to-do list, try slowing it down by connecting with one of your senses. Two of my favorite ways to do this are to grab a glass of ice water and take a drink while focusing on the cold sensation of both holding the glass and drinking the water. The other is to rub a meditation stone in my hand while focusing on the smooth feeling and shape of the rock. These techniques train your brain to stop spinning, slow down, and actively focus on one thing that we choose.
3. Get up and get away from your desk at least twice per day. Bonus points if you walk outside. Changing your physical environment, even for 5-10 minutes, can make the world of a difference. When you take this time, try to soak up what is happening in your new environment. Tune into what separates it from your work environment to give your mind a mental break.
4. Develop a "leaving work" routine. For me, it is rolling down the windows on my drive home, taking a few deep breaths, and playing my favorite songs or podcasts. When you are doing this remind yourself that you are physically and mentally leaving work at work. Then, focus on the things which are now available to you, whether it’s your partner, friends, a yoga class, a good book, or a favorite tv show.
5. Change your mindset- part two. If you are working overtime at home or staying late at the office, you may find yourself building resentment and thinking, “I can’t believe they’re making me do this” or “I wish I didn’t have to bring my work home.” But, what would happen if you refused to stay late or bring your work home? Maybe you would be disciplined or fired, or maybe not much would change and you would pick up where you left off tomorrow. The point is, you may not like the options that are currently available to you, but there are options. And recognizing this is important. It is empowering to stop feeling trapped in your circumstances and realize you are in control of making your own decisions.
Work can be incredibly overwhelming. And sometimes, I believe there is too much emphasis placed on how we can learn to tolerate a situation rather than what we can do to change it. By incorporating a few of these techniques into your daily routine, you may not change the demands of your job. You will however, perhaps more importantly, be investing in your emotional health. And only when you are at your best physically and emotionally, can you offer your best work or make the best decisions for yourself. The point is to not lose yourself in the burnout cycle which has become so commonplace.
Torie Cueto, LMFT is a licensed therapist in San Diego, California. Torie provides in-person therapy in San Diego and online video therapy throughout California.