Workplace stress is a common problem. There are many demands on your time and resources, and it can be overwhelming. Here are some ways to manage your workload and reduce your stress:

Say no. You don’t have to accept every request or opportunity. If you don’t have time, or it does not fit with your skill set or purpose, you don’t have to feel obligated.

Prioritize. You can’t do everything, and there will always be emergencies and new projects that come up unexpectedly. Try to plan ahead the day before, or in the morning before you get started. Make a short list of things that need to be done. Try not to have more than 3-5 items on the list.

What if you work for someone else?

If you have lots to do, ask your boss which project is the most important. Try to establish deadlines when the work is assigned. Ask for help if you cannot manage your workload.

What if you work with several departments or report to more than one person?

Try to keep everyone informed about the projects you are working on, so that they know what your workload looks like. Let them know when you will be available to take on more work. It is often helpful to put some procedures in place. You may need to ask your immediate supervisor or another staff member to process and respond to requests before they come to you.

Guard your schedule. Eliminate or shorten meetings if you can. Plan an agenda for each meeting in advance so that you can use time efficiently or determine if the meeting is necessary. Set aside time to respond to emails efficiently.

Close your door, or let coworkers know that you do not want to be disturbed for a period of time if you have a deadline or an important call.

Take breaks during your workday. Go outside if possible. If you have time for a walk, even better! Getting some exercise can clear your head and help you to relax. It may also boost your productivity.

Eat well. Try to pack a lunch and healthy snacks when you can.

Rest. Get adequate sleep. You will function more efficiently, and you’ll feel more relaxed.

Talk to someone outside of work. A friend or a family member might be a good sounding board. You might even want to talk to a counsellor, depending on the situation.

Make plans outside of work. Spend time with friends or family. Get involved in activities that you enjoy. Spend time alone, if that will recharge you. Go away or plan a “staycation” if you have vacation time. Get a massage, exercise, take a class, read a book alone, or with a book club.

Practice gratitude for your job and for the ability to work, despite the stress and the challenges that you face in the workplace. Find something positive to focus on, no matter how small. Maybe you have some great perks, such as great benefits, flexible hours, extra vacation time, or amazing coworkers.

Evaluate your progress in your job and your job satisfaction on a regular basis. Determine what you can do to improve your situation if you are unhappy or if you need to upgrade your skills. Are you where you want to be? Should you explore your options? Try to be practical. Don’t make an emotional decision. You may be able to stay with your company in a different role, or change your current job description. It can be helpful to talk your employer about your role and your professional goals. Do your best to be positive and proactive. If you are pleasant and professional, you are more likely to be heard and respected. Showing your boss how you can better serve the company and it’s goals may bring you the results you want.

If you decide to leave your position, have a clear plan in place, such as savings, a business plan for a new venture, or another job offer. When you have a medical or mental health concern, you may need to take a leave of absence to address it. Stress can jeopardize your physical and mental health. Be mindful of how your work environment is affecting you. It may be necessary to advocate for changes in the workplace, or accommodations for yourself, such as working from home, flex time, or reduced hours.

Workplace stress affects everyone. It is important to be intentional about implementing strategies to reduce your stress at work, otherwise, your life, your health, your productivity, and your job satisfaction may be negatively impacted.

Tara-Anne Powell, M.A., R. Psych.