Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

Have you ever found yourself unfocused, distracted…essentially spinning your wheels at work?

Even if you are passionate about your chosen career path, are there days during which you accomplish next to nothing?

You know the kind I mean–you start the day with high expectations and a solid plan to accomplish your goals, but come day’s end, you’ve got very little to show for your efforts. And worse, you feel like you’ve been working hard all day.

Many of us experience these days (or weeks.) Here’s the thing: even if you absolutely love what you do for a living, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed at work.

And, especially if you’re passionate about your work, you may not even realize it’s happening until you’re deep in the throes of the apathy and “brain fog” that comes along with workplace stress.

Left unchecked, workplace stress can have significant effects on your health, both mental and physical. And, when you don’t feel good, your perception on life can become corroded with that negative energy–effectively drawing more negativity into your life.

Is workplace stress a problem for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you consistently anxious, irritable or depressed?
  • Have you experienced a loss of interest in your work?
  • Are you having problems with sleeping? Fatigue?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating?
  • Do you have physical symptoms like muscle tension, headaches or stomach problems?
  • Do you find yourself withdrawing socially from friends and family?
  • Have you experienced a lower sex drive than usual?
  • Are you using alcohol or drugs to cope?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to make some proactive changes to promote positivity in your workplace and in your life. Doing so can reduce stress levels and ultimately eliminate many of these issues.

So what can you do?

Take Care of Your Body

An imbalanced diet can significantly contribute to “burn out.” And, ironically, in an effort to make their lives easier, busy people tend to make the unhealthiest choices. Many “convenience” foods are laden with fat, sodium and sugar, the effects of which will only make you feel more stressed. Eat healthy, whole foods as often as possible. Reduce or eliminate intake of alcohol and nicotine. Get at least a half hour of exercise, most days of the week, and get enough sleep. It won’t kill you to pull an all-nighter on occasion, but in general, keep to a regular sleep schedule.

Take Care of Your Soul

When you love your work, it’s easy to over-commit and over-schedule yourself. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, and eventually to apathy and loss of interest. Be sure to schedule down-time, especially if you’re a perfectionist who can’t stop until the job’s done. Sometimes, you just have to step back and regenerate. Otherwise, you may end up getting nothing done.

Put yourself back on your priority list. Try one of these simple meditation techniques from Mind Tools to help you start gaining the focus you need.

Clean Your House

Sometimes, taking a couple of hours to do a little deep cleaning at your house can help you to release your stress. If you’ve got an office or cubicle at work, clean that too (or have it cleaned.) Many people believe that the condition of your home represents the condition of your mind. So, if it’s dusty and cluttered, you might be feeling a little blocked yourself. Do yourself a favor and spend a little time cleaning up around the house, and you may just find that your focus snaps back into place. You’d be surprised at how therapeutic a little cleaning can be.

Priorities and Planning

Sometimes, feeling overwhelmed is just the result of not having a plan. Especially when we love our work, many of us take on too many projects and before we know it–we’re spinning our wheels, getting nothing done. The best way to create a daily plan is to have a basic daily routine, but one that’s flexible enough to allow you to focus on the most pressing issues of the day.

So, for example, let’s say you’re a customer service rep who lives in a cubicle 40 hours a week. You arrive at work to find three voice mails–one from an angry client, one from someone who needs information (a potential client) and one from your boss inviting you to lunch to discuss what you suspect is a promotion. And, on top of that, you’ve got two co-workers waiting to ask you questions about their own customers.

Stressed yet? 

When you develop a basic schedule, you can prioritize these types of things in advance–so, in the case of our customer service rep, she might have a morning routine like this:

1. Deal with any co-workers waiting for me.
2. Return phone calls in order of urgency.
3. Check email.
4. Start taking calls from customers.

The point is that whatever your job, simply putting an outline of your day together can help you to reduce your stress levels at work by helping you to prioritize your tasks. Of course, there will be times when an urgent situation throws all of it out the window–and this is where you need to allow for flexibility.

Change Your Mind

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–it’s all in your head. Life is what you make it. So, if you’re feeling stressed at work, change your mind–change your perception of the situation. Instead of feeling angry and frustrated that you have to deal with so much, feel grateful that you have a job (and that you love what you do–if that’s the case.) It’s easy to forget why we chose our career paths when we feel overwhelmed by our day-to-day lives.

Don’t hate your job. Love it, even if it’s not ideal. Be grateful for it, and do it to the best of your ability. If the job you’re currently in isn’t right for you, start imagining yourself in one that is. Feel what it feels like, and then focus on having it. Always focus on the positives and the things for which you are grateful–and you’ll attract more of it into your life. Spend time hating your job and wishing away your time–and you can be sure to expect more things to hate in your life. Remember that like attracts like–so feel positive and happy and more good things and situations will be attracted into your life.

What do you think? Have you experienced workplace stress? How did you handle it?

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