How to Manage Workplace Stress

When I was 22, I got a job in marketing. Suddenly, I entered into an industry that never sleeps, taking phone calls at 11 p.m., working weekends, and managing traffic for one of the busiest advertising agencies in New England.

It was at that job that I learned one of the most important lessons of my career—how to manage work-related stress. And with a bit of effort, I was able to turn what once felt overwhelming into a smooth set of daily processes that rarely amounted to more than I could handle.

Today’s professional landscape is far more fast-paced and stressful than that of the past—here are five effective ways to manage stress in the workplace.

1. Wake up early

There are few things that can add to a person’s stress level more than rushing from place to place, with little to no time in between to prepare for the next task at hand. I spent years (including all of my college years) giving myself just enough time after waking up to get to where I needed to be, but when I got there, I constantly felt behind and spent most mornings playing catch-up on tasks. Waking up at a time that allots you an extra hour each morning to mentally and physically prepare for the day by reading the news or simply relaxing with a cup of coffee is an excellent usage of time. It may even save you from spinning your wheels throughout the day.

2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Another thing I realized early on was that it was essential to keep myself healthy in order to keep up with my responsibilities at work. This meant making sure I got enough sleep, stuck to a healthy diet, and exercised four-five times each week, all of which helped me feel calmer and more alert upon waking up each day. Limiting my alcohol consumption to weekends was also an epiphany of sorts, which led to much more clarity of mind throughout the week (and even a little weight loss!).

3. Get (and stay) organized

Keeping important information in your head and nowhere else won’t do you any favors, regardless of what it is you do for work. It’s likely that your mind will constantly vacillate back and forth on tasks that have yet to be completed, projects that have run into issues and whatever else may be on your plate. Getting organized by entering everything that relates to your workweek into a project management system—physical or digital (I prefer Asana)—can help to put your mind at ease, not to mention ensure you never miss another deadline.

What stresses you out at work?

4. Diffuse conflict

There’s a good chance you’ll run into conflict in the workplace at some point or another in your career. Whether it’s personal or professional, learning how to handle these situations before they escalate is essential to maintaining amicable, positive working relationships with coworkers and managers. It’s often as simple as opening up the gateway for communication with a conversation about whatever the issue happens to be. Be sure to listen actively, avoid allowing emotion to enter into your language and use I-statements for best effect. Put conflicts to bed early, as they only grow in intensity when left to fester.

5. Breathe!

It may sound cliché, but there’s simply no better way to recenter yourself when it feels like you’re falling off a cliff than to take a few minutes to practice deep breathing exercises. Find a quiet, dark space, close your eyes, and breathe in and out naturally, focusing on the movement of your breath. Many people also find quick relaxation in square breathing, a similar technique that can be practiced anywhere and combines a visual component of following a square shape with your eyes while focusing on the breath. Find a technique that works for you, and when in doubt, breathe!

Don’t let workplace stress get the best of you. Incorporate these tips into your work routine, and the results will play out on their own.