There’s no doubt about it: American workers are stressed.
Studies continue to find that Americans are more stressed by their jobs than any other factor, and job stress keeps rising. This is partly because employees are consistently working harder and for longer hours (and often without a pay increase).
One study found that 40 percent of workers felt their jobs were very or extremely stressful, while another 29 percent reported feeling quite a bit or extremely stressed at work. In total, around 80 percent of workers feel stress related to their jobs.
But no matter how ubiquitous it may be, job stress isn’t something we should just accept. This type of stress has serious consequences for mental and physical health and the success of the companies we work for. Heightened stress on the job has been linked to an increased risk for heart attack, hypertension, and other physical ailments ranging from neck and eyestrain to insomnia and chronic fatigue. All this stress takes a toll on workers’ mental health and personal relationships.
In an effort to cope, Americans call in sick more often than they have in decades past. When you couple absenteeism with an increase in stress-related accidents, employee turnover, medical costs, and workers’ compensation awards, it all adds up to around $300 billion in yearly industry expenses.
In short? Job stress isn’t helping anybody. In fact, it’s hurting a lot of us. If you count yourself among the growing tribe of stress-besieged workers, then it’s important to do what you can to limit your stresses across the board—not just after work, but during and before it as well. While solutions for on-the-job work stresses vary by individual and position, anyone can start their day off on the right (relaxed) foot with the following strategies.
Prepare the night before
Set yourself up for a pleasant morning with a few simple actions the night before. Pack your lunch and/or lay out your work clothes so you don’t have to rush to complete these tasks in the morning. Most importantly, go to bed early enough to ensure a good night’s sleep; being sleep deprived all but guarantees that you’ll feel more stressed during the day.
Too many of us use our smartphone as an alarm and then end up reading work emails before we even get out of bed. This starts off the day with you feeling behind and frantic. Instead, commit to not checking email until you get to work. (If you can’t hold out that long, at least brush your teeth and have breakfast first.) Remove email from your phone if it will help reduce temptation, or consider keeping your phone in the kitchen at night and use a dedicated alarm clock instead.
Work out before working
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that help reduce stress, increase energy levels, boost mood, and promote positive thinking. If the thought of lifting weights at six in the morning makes you want to curl up in the fetal position, try easing into it with a short stroll around the block.
Eat a high-quality breakfast
Coping with job stress is hard. Coping with job stress when your stomach is rumbling and you haven’t eaten in 15 hours is a lot harder. If you don’t give your body the proper fuel to get through the workday, then it has to draw on stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol for energy instead. Choose a breakfast that offers a balance of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. And aim to eat it sitting down instead of while rushing out the door or sitting in traffic, even if it means waking up a bit earlier.
Find some stillness
Even if you don’t make time for a leisurely breakfast, it’s important to give yourself some real peace and quiet before diving into the workday. This may look different for each individual. Great options include meditation or deep breathing, listening to a favorite song, journaling, aromatherapy, yoga, or reading a good book.
Stress tends to increase when we’re surrounded by clutter. If you have some time in the morning, consider neatening up the house so you can come home to a pleasant, relaxing space. Make your bed, put away any clothes left out the night before, and do the dishes. Or set up some organizational systems that will help you during the workday, such as sorting through loose papers or unsubscribing from email lists you no longer wish to receive. A little tidying goes a long way.
Once you experiment with these strategies and find a few that work well for you, create a consistent morning routine you can count on to put you in a relaxed state of mind before work.
How do you de-stress at work?
Let us know in the comments below!
Laura Newcomer, Environmental & Personal Wellness Expert.
Laura Newcomer is a writer, editor, and educator with multiple years of experience working in the environmental and personal wellness space. Her writing has been published on Washington Post, TIME Healthland, Greatist, DailyBurn, Lifehacker, and Business Insider, among others.