Coming back from summer vacation, many people realize how stressed or dissatisfied they truly are at their job. Rather than the vacation providing a break to come back stronger, they realize how toxic the water they have been swimming in truly is. Sometimes summer is a stress at work because so many managers and co-workers are away at unpredictable times. Work falls unfairly on a few people, decisions made by others become your problem, and there are less effective people around to get the work done. It is not uncommon for people even to have panic attacks on vacation, not because the vacation is upsetting, but because it is the first time they let down their guard. Emotion finally starts to flood back in. Often this shows up as an emergency room visit due to chest pains, vague feelings of illness, or a strange heartbeat.
Some tips for managing stress include:
1) Don’t stop dreaming: The best time to look for another job (or a passionate hobby to balance the drudgery of your job) is while you have a job. Find time to imagine other choices for yourself. Knowing your options can help you feel more empowered and optimistic even if you choose to stay.
2) Be careful of the company you keep: Are you hanging around more and more people who are complaining at work? Is there someone who is not complaining and has developed a positive attitude? Make sure you invest your time with people who are gratifying. Even when you do not like your task at work, good people and relationships can balance this out.
3) Micro-breaks: Build into your schedule small breaks to look forward to. This could include a trip to the break room, a walk around the building, taking lunch outside, calling/texting a friend, or playing a quick game of Angry Birds on your phone (not your work equipment). These small treats can mark progress in your day and be a reward to keep going.
4) Multi-tasking or multi-distraction: Take a hard look at how you are doing your work. Are you being overly responsive to each person, call, text or email as it comes in? Then you are not actually completing what you need to. Divide your day into focused work and multi-tasking sections. Compare your actual productivity- and then make changes.
5) 2,000 hours: Most people are in their office at least 8 hours a day for 50 weeks of the year. You are spending 2000 hours in this environment. Does it reflect anything you enjoy, treasure, or brings you comfort? We sometimes spend less awake time in our own homes and they reflect who we are in ways that we enjoy.
6) Leave it at the front door: The stress of work does not only occur in the office or work site. Because we don’t leave it at our front door it spends as much time with us at home. Create a commute that allows you to have time to review your day and what you need to do before you open your front door. Make a conscious effort to leave it outside. Each time a thought from work pops up at home, imagine putting it in your mailbox or car. Some people imagine a big stop sign or think STOP loudly to put the brakes on the rumination. Some people need to write it down and literally close the book to leave it behind them.
7) Go undercover: When we get stressed at a meeting and can’t leave do small subversive relaxation. You can become focused on slowing your breathing. Some people tensing and relaxing small muscles or kick their shoes off under the table to get grounded to the floor. Others get up to get a new pen or glass of water, while others use creativity and daydreaming for a laugh. All of these can help shake off the stress temporarily.
8) Perspective: Remember a time personally or professionally that was more stressful- and how that did not last- and life went on. Remember that work often makes events seem life or death when in reality the stakes and deadlines are our own artificial creations.
9) Therapy: Seeing a therapist can provide more of these types of techniques, as well as a place to organize and think through more complex problems at work. These problems include: abusive/intrusive bosses, romance at work, the loss of co-workers, competitive colleagues, dealing with downsizing, and working with your spouse.