Before the pandemic became a leading cause of stress in the workplace and beyond, 94% of American workers were feeling the heat at work already. A whopping 35% of workers recorded their main source of pressure came directly from their boss or office management. While it can certainly be a good thing to experience pressure in different areas of life – it can help to drive intense focus in our work – it is not healthy to be in constant fight or flight mode.
In fact, being in a state of constant or near-constant pressure or stress can be incredibly damaging to your body. During a stress response, your body is quickly trying to figure out how to survive. Your heart rate and blood pressure spike, your blood flow is redirected and can have physical effects, and you may not experience pain the way you normally do. Fight or flight steers you to constantly be on edge and can be an insanely difficult distraction to work through. Your body can stay in a state like this, maintaining survival, all day. This leads to overwhelming, exhaustion, and a total malfunction of your bodily processes.
Because of this – and many more valuable reasons – it may be time to take the reigns when it comes to the way you experience pressure at work.
What causes work pressure?
Before you can understand how to go about working through your pressure, it is important to be aware of the different types of pressure that could be facing you at work. Good management should also stay on top of a running list similar to this:
- Job security
- Management issues
- A colleague’s vendetta
- Social support
- High demand
- Imbalance of social and work lives
Furthermore, a 2016 study published by the National Library of Medicine claims that “Stress-inducing management practices included unrealistic demands, lack of support, unfair treatment, low decision latitude, lack of appreciation, effort-reward imbalance, conflicting roles, lack of transparency and poor communication.” The fourth quarter (Q4) in any given work year is usually a high-stakes, high-pressure time, even if the rest of the year feels more manageable.
Sit with your calendar and evaluate the types of pressure you may be experiencing. Take a look at any tasks or projects you have scheduled and think about where the pressure may come from as you work through those. Be aware of the people, situations, environments and other factors that may be contributing to your pressure or stress. After all, you cannot work with it and against it unless you are acutely aware of it.
How to handle work pressure
1. Mute push notifications
We know this feels like it is out of the left field, and maybe your job requires a little more attention than this, but it is time to consider muting your notifications. Yes, the pings in the middle of the day to your computer and mobile device can help you stay on task. However–more often than not–notifications can be a very big distraction.
If you are working confidently on something, we suggest turning notifications off and checking in on particular topics and private conversations in your work chat every once in a while. Allowing yourself to focus on the task at hand instead of being barraged by a constant stream of notifications could actually help you focus, relieving some pressure points when it comes to what you are assigned.
If you cannot afford to mute your notifications while you are in the office or working on a particular project, it is advised to do so between working hours. Yes, that means shutting off work mode in your brain when you are leaving the office for the day. It can be difficult, but it is definitely worthwhile in the long run, especially for your mental health.
2. Breathe through it
While it isn’t always the first option people go for, breathing exercises and meditation can be a very sound way to work through work pressure and stress. Not only that, but it can improve your focus and help guide your short-term memory, which can help relieve the stress you may be feeling toward your work.
The good news? You can meditate almost anywhere and within any window of time. Have 3 minutes? Great. You can get your breathing regulated in that amount of time. While 15-20 minutes is a great jumping-off point to learning your thought patterns and approach, the amount of time you spend mindfully breathing at work can and should ebb and flow.
3. Manage your tasks differently
If you have glanced at your agenda and are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure, you may want to speak with your coworkers about delegating tasks. It can feel like you may be letting your team down–and we certainly do not suggest having this conversation during a high-stakes time period – but acknowledging what you can practically do within a window of time or at your pay grade can help you thrive in your position at work. When you thrive, you can contribute much more to the conversation, which leaves space for innovation and gains for the company.
Instead of delegating, some people choose to find a new way to approach work. Are there more mindless or mundane tasks you could easily do with your hands tied behind your back? Consider taking those on during the part of your day where you feel less productive. If you are a morning person, maybe this happens during a post-lunch afternoon slump. If you are not into mornings, then your brain may want something mindless to do while it reacts to your caffeinated beverage of choice.
4. Take time for yourself
If you are feeling pressure at work, consider the ramifications of requesting stress leave. While the United States has a law called the Family Medical Leave Act, which stands to ensure that employees have time to recover from stress and the physical and emotional tolls of pressure, taking too much time off could add pressure to your plate. This, of course, depends on your standing at work, the current situation and the number of tasks that are currently on your plate. However, sometimes taking time for yourself can help you rise to the occasion when the pressure mounts.