You have a project looming, and people on your team just aren't doing their part. Your manager is grumpy and taking it out on you. You feel like you're in a dead-end job.
We've all felt the effect of work stress at some point—probably many points—no matter where we are in our careers. It's an issue facing many people. In the American Psychological Association's (APA) 2012 Stress in America Survey, 65 percent of participants cited work as the top source of their stress.
Americans work a lot. Acording to Pew, Americans worked an average of 38.7 hours a week and 46.8 weeks per year in 2015. Many, particularly full-time employees, work even more.
So, what's a worker to do? If the sheer number of hours a person works stresses her out, and cutting back isn't an option, how do you take care of your mental well-being and prevent yourself from getting overly stressed out?
Here are five stress management tips to help you and your mental health.
1. Set limits.
You know how much you can take. If you have too much on your plate, it's time to learn how to say no.
When your boss or a coworker hands off a new task, politely explain that you're busy with other projects. Suggest an alternative or someone else who has a lighter workload.
Your boss won't accept that answer? The you're not in a healthy working environment. A manager who can't accept her employee's limits is not a good manager. Perhaps it's time to have a discussion about expectations—or look for a new job.
You can't do it all yourself. Many perfectionists have trouble passing off projects or tasks to other people, because they want to have absolute control over them. But that's not good for your own mental health or your employees' growth in their careers.
If you're worried about others taking on challenging work, start small, asking them to oversee one or two more minor projects. Once they've proven they can handle the work, increase their responsibilities. Chances are, your employees will relish the new role. Not only will it help them grow, but it will ease your own stress levels.
Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and many of us aren't getting it. Make sure getting a good night's sleep is part of your to-do list. It will have a strong impact on your stress response and overall mental health.
4. Take a break.
If you make a mistake or are triggered by another stressful situation, it's normal to feel anxious and upset. But before you completely unravel, pause. Take a deep breath. Practice soothing self-talk. Then return to the situation.
It's also important to take longer periods of time for yourself. Use your vacation days and take a trip somewhere. Or have a staycation at home. Just don't think about work. Don't even check your work email. Instead, relax and unwind.
5. Keep it in perspective.
Often, our stress responses to issues that are bothering us at work are heightened because of the environment. We're around other people who are working on the same project or toward the same goals, so we don't have perspective on how it matters in the larger scheme of things.
Take a step back. Talk to your partner, a family member, or a friend who doesn't work with you. They can help talk you down and realize that in the bigger picture, the issue that's bothering you won't matter as much in the long run. Plus, they can be great sources of comfort in times of difficulty.