Various reasons that work stress occurs. These can be increased workload versus lack of support, limited internal opportunities for professional growth, lack of job satisfaction and work autonomy, conflicting instructions or unclear expectations, etc. These are all sources of stress that may eventually evolve into burnout.
How do you manage work stress and avoid burnout? First things first, it is essential to recognize the signs that indicate one may be stressed at work.
Signs That You Are Stressed at Work
If you want to do a quick reality check, here are some signs and symptoms that work stress may push you to burnout sometime soon. You may:
- Become irritable and get angry easily.
- Feel anxious or depressed.
- Lose confidence, start doubting yourself.
- Have trouble concentrating.
- Forget things easily.
- Become apathetic, lose interest in work.
- Start talking negatively about work and company.
- Become socially withdrawn.
- Have a problem with sleeping.
- Have muscle tension, headaches or stomach problems.
How many did you check off? 🙂
How to Manage Your Stress to Avoid Burnout
There are lots of tips out there. Here I’ll share the solutions I’ve used that worked for me.
1. Make a List
This is utterly important. When you get swamped, you’ll forget things easily. The more items are added to your plate, the more you feel stressed, and the worse your memory gets… It’s a vicious circle. Make a to-do list so that you won’t forget what needs to be done.
I use Outlook Tasks to track my to-do items while saving the trees, plus it’s handy. And trust me, it feels so good when you review your list and check things off!
2. Ask Yourself
I have recently learned this, and it helped me adjust my mindset and start seeing things through. So, I’m sharing it with you here in hopes that it will be helpful to you too.
Let’s take working too many hours as an example. In this scenario, your workload increased significantly, yet you have minimal support and recognition; you are overwhelmed by working more hours and don’t know what to do.
To start, ask yourself this question – why do I have to work for so many hours?
Your answer could be – “I want to prove myself,” “I want to be recognized by my boss,” “I want to make a difference at my company.”
Cool. So next, keep asking yourself – why is that important to you?
This time you may say, for example – “I want to make a career progression.”
Ok. Then why is that important to you?
To this point, you may start thinking – indeed, is it crucial? If the answer is yes, then keep doing what you are doing, although you may also begin to realize that this may not be the only way to get what you want.
Of course, your career is essential. But remember, there are many other important things in your life. Plus, working hard may not lead you anywhere, especially if your employer doesn’t value your work.
3. Take Time Off
First of all, you are not the center of the world, and realizing this will help you avoid burnout. Secondly, no one cares.
Alright, I was only joking on the second statement.
Thirdly, and most importantly, people call it a “recharge” for a reason. Put your laptop away, get outside and enjoy nature. It helps you reorganize your thoughts and return to work with different views.
So, take your damn time off, and stop feeling stressed about it.
4. Set Boundaries
Manage others’ expectations and set boundaries. Admittedly, sometimes people keep adding things to your plate because they didn’t know your workload. If you don’t say anything, don’t expect people to understand how busy you are.
Also, learn to say “no,” tactically and respectfully. Learn to tell who really needs help and who is just taking advantage of you.
5. Raise Flags Internally
Have an open conversation with your manager, let them know that you are feeling stressed and need support. This is not a complaint session; this is to lay out the facts and create a plan. Have your manager identify your priorities and clarify what your expectations are. Employee health is linked to team productivity, so your manager has the motivation to create a work environment that promotes employees’ wellbeing and avoids burnout.
6. Get Help Externally
This is a relatively passive way, but it worked for me. Go to online forums or communities where people share the same profession as you and can post anonymously (i.e., Reddit). You’ll be surprised to see that many people have the same problem as you. You are not alone. There are two advantages of using these forums.
First, you’ll understand that you are not the busiest person in the universe and that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Second, you’ll see how other people manage their work stress, which may apply to your situation. Or try to post something yourself to get some ideas in. Just remember that you’ll need to follow your company’s social media policy if there is one.
I hope you find the 6 tips above helpful. If you’ve tried anything else to manage work stress and avoid burnout, and it’s working for you, share your experience below.