Sometimes it seems like there’s not much you can do when stress is coming from external factors, but there’s always something you can control.
For a long time, I wasn’t the best at handling stress. I don’t think you could say I was the worst at handling stress, but I didn’t handle it well. So, as you can imagine, when I found myself in a job that did anything but help me manage my stress, I went into a bit of a downward spiral.
But even those things in life that are very difficult to navigate can teach us lessons. This particular job taught me a lot about how to effectively manage stress and helped me form habits that still help me to this day when I encounter a stressful situation.
If you are facing stress in your life from work, then here are some things that can help:
1. Ask for Help
This is one of the biggest lessons I learned at my previous job and one that has stuck with me from that incredibly stressful time. I’m the type of person who likes to take on everything by myself. In the past, I’ve worn the badge of “drowning but doing it alone” proudly, which is honestly a terrible thing to do.
Sometimes we all need help — especially when we’re stressed. I remember my assistant director at the time specifically pointing out that I needed to ask for help when I needed it — that we were a team and if one of us needed help, everyone would jump in. But the key is that you have to ask. People aren’t mind readers (trust me, sometimes I wish they were.) If you are overwhelmed and stressed, talk about it. Mention it to people who can help — if work is causing you problems, talk about it with your supervisor and see if you can brainstorm some solutions to the problems you’re facing.
2. Get in Some Exercise
I know you’ve heard this one before. I’d definitely heard this one before when I was in the thick of that aforementioned stressful job, but boy did I underestimate how helpful those endorphins from working out can be.
When I was at my breaking point with stress, I would schedule a spin class. The studio I went to was particularly helpful in this arena because they would have themed rides that sometimes were exactly what I needed. Have a bad day with difficult customers? A themed ride called IDGAF was literally the most perfect way to end that hectic day.
While you may not be a spin enthusiast or know a studio with themed rides that let you feel all the feels, there’s probably something out there for you. Feeling angry? Maybe get some kickboxing in to let out all that rage. Feeling overwhelmed? Maybe some calming and reflective yoga is what you need to dial in on what’s really important. Needing clarity? Maybe just a simple walk through your neighborhood will help clear your head. Whatever your feeling, getting in some movement will undoubtedly make you feel at least a little bit better.
3. Write it All Out
This is another bit of advice that you might have heard before, but even non-writers can benefit from journaling their thoughts and feelings out onto paper. I have a few methods I use when it comes to journaling, but what I most often end up doing is dumping the contents of my brain onto paper. When I’m feeling particularly burnt out, sometimes that’s only a few words or sentences, but I often end up writing pages in one sitting because the physical act of writing with a pen leads me into thoughts and feelings I hadn’t even recognized were bubbling up.
If you’re new to journaling, I’d say think of it this way: journaling is a way to express what’s stressing you out or vent about your day without actually talking to someone. Sure, talking to someone can be immensely helpful, but sometimes it’s just as helpful to write it all out and let the stress melt down from your brain through your pen.
4. Put Out Feelers
I’d say this is probably a last resort, but sometimes the stress of your job is simply not worth it. Just like there are plenty of toxic workplaces out there that stretch their employees way too thin, there are also plenty that value their employees and make work-life balance a priority. So maybe think twice before you up and quit after a particularly stressful day (who can really manage that, aside from movie characters and the wealthiest among us?) but it certainly doesn’t hurt to see what positions are open and send out a few resumes. Even Alison Green of the popular work blog Ask A Manager (one of my personal favorites for finding advice on just about anything work-related) acknowledges to readers that sometimes stress and unhappiness at work simply isn’t worth it in the long run — especially if your disdain for your job lasts for a month or more.
Even in these uncertain times, there are companies out there looking to hire, so why not at least give it some thought? If you’re stressed enough that you’ve already mused about the potential of leaving in a blaze of glory before ever reading these words, take this article as your sign to do some future job investigating on the down-low while you get into journaling or take up a new exercise routine in the meantime.
Don’t Let Stress Get You Down
I know, I know — easier said than done. But take it from someone who used to be so stressed it was manifesting in physical ailments and symptoms — you can’t let stress get the best of you. Take some of these techniques and apply them in your own life, and don’t forget that it will get better if you make some positive changes in your life to get to that future, less stressed place.