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It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the majority of Americans say their job is the biggest cause of stress in their lives (and this is true in many other parts of the world as well). As we push ourselves harder and are constantly connected, stress has started to take an even bigger toll on our lives especially when you consider the impact that COVID-19 has had. Many employees constantly feel burned out and overworked. When you’re stressed, you’re not as good of an employee or leader, and you’re definitely not as good of a friend, spouse, or parent.

A growing number of organizations have initiatives to promote health and wellness which is great to see. However, it’s ultimately up to us as individuals to take control over our own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and to control our stress levels.

I put together a video which I hope will inspire and motivate you. Please check it out below and if you want more content like this you can subscribe to my Youtube channel.

Here are four ways to manage your stress at work:

Take a stress audit.

What causes you stress at work? Is it having to do the work of two people because a co-worker left? Is it being called into meetings at all hours of the day? Is it a client with a bad attitude? Analyze what triggers your stress and try to find solutions to control the trigger or avoid it altogether. Don’t focus WHY you feel a certain way, instead ask yourself WHAT is causing you to feel a certain way, that way you can take concrete action to fix the issue. For me a packed day of meetings is a huge cause of stress, so I try to avoid having days like that.

Set boundaries.

Stay in control of those stress-causing triggers. Talk to your boss and set boundaries. If always being on call is causing major stress, set limits of when you will and won’t respond to a work call. Openly share what is causing you to stress with your manager and find solutions that work for you and the company. I have someone on my team who helps me with content and a few years ago I threw a ton of work at her with unrealistic expectations. Instead of her saying, “sorry I can’t do this.” She responded with the clever, “how would you like me to prioritize all of the projects you have assigned?” This was her way of saying, “this is too much work, I’m happy to do it, but with a more realistic timeline and expectations.” You don’t have to be rude when setting boundaries. If you’re getting invites to 10 meetings a day from 6am to 9pm try telling your leader or team, “I’m being invited to a lot of meetings which ones are the top priority for me to attend?”

Stay healthy.

Usually, I’m traveling a few hundred thousand miles a year for speaking and advisory engagements. If I don’t stay healthy I can’t deliver a good talk or workshop. Now with COVID-19 this also means I can’t deliver a good virtual keynote or an interview for my podcast. I have to stay healthy so that I can deliver good quality work to the organizations who hire me. This means getting enough sleep (even with a 2 month old!), eating healthy, exercising, and taking time to relax. Your physical health is connected to your mental and emotional health. Take time each day to move your body and be active, try to eat healthy so you have more energy, and give yourself enough time to rest. You can’t lead others and you can’t be an effective team member if you are burned out, stress out and overworked.

Be realistic.

Oftentimes, stress is caused by creating unrealistic expectations for ourselves. I’m certainly guilty of this and when you work for yourself like I do, this is even harder to manage. For many years I would pile on as much work into a single day as I possibly could. In a single day I would schedule meetings, time to do podcasts, videos, write articles, and more. I learned my lesson when after a few short months I couldn’t do it anymore. Remember that you’re human and can’t do everything on your own. Learn what you are capable of accomplishing in one day, and divide the rest of your responsibilities for other days. With realistic expectations, you won’t feel overwhelmed when you can’t possibly get to everything in one day. I try to focus on 3 or MAYBE 5 goals to get done for the day and if I do those then that’s it, I get to spend my free time working on my chess game.

Managing stress is an ongoing process. Find ways to mitigate stress triggers and take care of yourself. If you find talking to your boss and setting boundaries at work isn’t working, don’t be afraid to leave that job behind and find something that is a better fit for your mental and emotional needs. Life is too short to be a part of an organization that is causing you emotional and physical harm.

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If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:

  1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.
  2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.
  3. If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did it. You can subscribe to that here

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