Tips for Managing Stress at Work
You’re the boss of your company, but your company is not the boss of you.
Need help managing stress at work? Not sleeping well? No kidding. According to a Monster's 2021 State of the Candidate survey of full-time and part-time employees in the United States, mental health issues are top of mind for many. Many employees have experienced anxiety (31%), depression (15%), and headaches from too much screen time (13%) as a result of their job, not to mention loneliness (10%) and increased alcohol use (5%).
As a manager, your job isn't getting any easier. Climbing the ladder comes with added responsibilities, a packed schedule, and the pressure of needing to set the tone for your entire organization. These practical tips for managing stress at work will teach you how to take care of yourself when you're also responsible for managing others.
How to Manage Stress at Work
1. Take Control of Your Schedule
Being the boss means you're in demand, almost all the time, from almost everybody you work with. But this doesn't mean exhaustion is unavoidable.
"The people that are really effective leaders are very good at planning out their time in advance," says Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic and author of My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.
Part of that planning may include establishing—and sticking to—a routine in your week. Block out time to accomplish regular tasks—returning phone calls, signing paperwork, clearing your inbox—while also leaving room for flexibility to respond to urgent matters.
Once you've established your main priorities for the day or week, communicate them to your team members, especially your assistant. Hold yourself accountable to maintaining this routine. Do what you said when you said you'd do it, and then stop when you said you'd stop. Then move on to the next thing. Believe it or not, this is actually possible—but only if you're willing to work at it.
Similarly, it might seem like you can't escape email in the evenings, but turning off your phone during set hours each evening can go a long way toward reducing your stress. Set aside a block of non-work time—for example, that you won't respond to email between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.—and tell your team not to expect an immediate response from you then, Stossel says.
Similarly, go ahead and carve out time to exercise and decompress during the workweek. Tell your assistant to leave those times open and to only contact you if absolutely necessary.
The more you can control how you spend your time, the less stressed you are likely to feel.
2. Maintain Healthy Relationships
You know the phrase "It's lonely at the top"? Well, it's true. You likely endured a certain amount of social isolation as you rose up the ranks of your organization. You're not exactly pals with the people working for you. You might have good relationships with them, but you're responsible for them in a different way.
Just as you're a source of support for your team, you need your own strong support system, both personally and professionally, outside of the office.
"When it comes to complex situations and difficult decisions, getting insight and perspectives from others can help reduce your cognitive load and help you make better decisions," says David Ballard, former head of applied psychology at the American Psychological Association.
Build strong professional-peer relationships outside of your organization by joining groups that bring together executives and high-performance leaders. But remember to nurture your non-work persona, as well. Catching up with friends can help you feel, for lack of a better word, like a normal human being—and not just a human extension of your company. You have a life outside of your job—live it!
3. Call in the Pros
Sometimes, not being able to shake the demands of workplace stress requires more than just an organized schedule and FaceTime with pals on the weekend. "If you're struggling with the pressures that come with a senior position, there's no shame in asking for professional help," says Ballard.
Traditional therapy or counseling should be considered if the chronic stress is affecting your health, relationships, and job performance, he says. Psychotherapy can help you cope with life problems; develop healthier, more effective habits; and change your thought and behavior patterns that are interfering with your ability to function day-to-day, both on the job and at home.
If your problems are mainly confined to work, a skilled executive coach can also help you get a better handle on things. An experienced executive coach understands the pressures of being the boss and can give you unbiased, confidential advice on how to deal with stress at work effectively and improve your job performance.
Make a Change
All this being said, if you follow these tips for managing stress at work but you still find yourself overworked and overwhelmed, maybe you're not the problem. It could be that you need to find a new employer who wants to see you excel as a boss—and also as a well-adjusted human being. Could you use some help getting started? Make a profile on Monster for free. We can offer career advice and job search tips to take some of the pressure off your shoulders and help put you on the path to a better, healthier future.