If your “case of the Mondays” seems to last through the entire week, you may be feeling like stress at work is a monkey you’ll never get off your back.
Chances are, the very same attention to detail and laser focus that makes you a top-level achiever are going to be the very same personality traits that make you extra sensitive to stressful situations. So while no one expects you to magically transition into an executive with the demeanor of a master yoga instructor, there are some easy ways you can learn to cope with stress without ever missing a beat at work.
1. Know the Difference: Stress vs. Fear
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is no stranger to stressful situations: from launching rockets into space with varying degrees of success to pioneering self-driving automotive technology. But in spite of his ability to take major risks in his work, he is not without fear of failure. However, he cautions people to know the difference between an irrational fear that is causing stress and a fear that is justified. For the irrational fears, Musk invites people to ignore them, identifying them as baseless. For the rational fears, he urges people to decide when to take a worthwhile risk. If your stress is caused by fear, know what kind of fear you’re dealing with and get to managing it or embracing it.
2. Procrastination is the Enemy
Often, starting a dreaded or unpleasant task is far less painful than the time spent dreading and avoiding it. While many people use procrastination as a coping mechanism for stress, it can often become the problem itself, digging a deeper hole for you to climb out of. Take action instead. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be done. If possible, find a way to make the stress-inducing task more pleasant. Type up that report due today on your laptop while sitting outside on the company’s deck. Play music while you crunch the numbers for an upcoming budget meeting. Buy yourself an extra indulgent latte from the café on the corner to sip while you make a series of unpleasant phone calls. Whatever you do, don’t put it off: you’ll only make it worse.
3. Draw the Line Between Work & Life
Almost everybody struggles with keeping work obligations from bleeding into their personal lives. As a result, a simple check of your email from home can invite all of the stress of the workplace right into your kitchen. These moments can cause stress even before you leave the office, anticipating that the workday is not really over when your evening commute begins. While there will be some projects and responsibilities that require check-ins after hours, do not allow these to become the norm: only certain efforts will not be able to wait until work the next day. It’s up to you to know the difference. If you become known around the office for replying to even the most trivial of emails after hours, people will expect as much from you even when not necessary.
4. Show Your Email Who’s Boss
It’s dangerously easy to become a slave to your inbox’s unread email notifications: even just the pinging sound effect can seem urgent. But if you find yourself stressed at your desk throughout the day, take some time to consider how you manage your email. Do you drop whatever you’re doing every time it chirps? This scattered approach to your workday may be the reason why you never feel you can get anything done. Instead, schedule specific times to check your email throughout the day. Space these moments according to your needs and then focus on your real work, guilt-free with your inbox closed.
5. Get Perspective
Your job is not your entire world. While building a career is a top priority, it’s vital that you remember exactly what you’re working for. Are you building a nest egg for your family? Are you looking to help your parents retire? Are you trying to make a major change in your industry for the better? Are you itching to make a 40-under-40 list? Reestablish and realign your priorities around the bigger goals than your daily to-do list and you will find yourself newly capable of taking a 30,000-foot view of your troubles. Even better, when taking the wider view, you may find that certain tasks, which once seemed essential are really not necessary at all and can be cleared aside for more important work.