How to Thrive in a Stressful Work Environment

Staff changes, financial strain, and low morale are just some of the issues that many people deal with on a day-to-day basis in the workplace.  It is important to recognize these stressors and make a more concerted effort to find greater happiness and health on the job.  Lowering stress benefits both the employee and the employer; if people feel less taxed and more fulfilled, they will in turn become more productive. 

Here are some tips to creating a better tone in the office for you and your co-workers: 

1) Set a positive intention regarding work every morning when you get out of bed.  Whether it be focusing on finding a spark of creativity throughout the day, thinking outside the box about an issue that frustrates you, or offering to make a coffee run for everybody in the afternoon, be mindful of one thing that you can focus on that may make work feel a little bit more enjoyable.  Studies show that shifting your attitude even about just one part of your day can have a significant impact on lowering your stress level!

2) As (motivational speaker) Gabrielle Bernstein says, “Be the Light.”  This may sound trite, but think about how easy it is to become swept up into the undertow of negativity.  One co-worker has a beef with another, somebody sends an email that in turn leads to miscommunication, your boss makes a judgment call that you disagree with, or you find that you don’t have enough colleagues to handle the workload.  Whatever it is, when you feel overwhelmed by things that seem out of your control in the workplace, try to remove yourself from the frustrations and instead focus on gratitude for something positive (a pleasant conversation with a co-worker, a good cup of coffee, a project that you feel excited by).  You’re practicing leaning towards the light by concentrating on what you can control.  In turn this could rub off on others and lead to an overall healthier workplace. 

3) Compliment your colleagues on their strengths, and in turn, don’t gossip.  It’s so easy to say, but hard to do.  We as human beings often find that we immediately go towards and then bond over the negative.  A shared experience helps us to feel connected to others.  Instead, try focusing on the qualities of your co-workers that you most admire, and try not to add to the rumor mill by talkin about others behind their back.  If you don’t participate in the negativity of gossiping yourself, you may find that your drive to be in the office increases.  It can be a challenging shift to make, but accepting your colleagues for who they are and in turn trying to value their strengths can be a mood lifter.  This may also be the catalyst to spark more creativity and greater teamwork between you and your co-workers as well!

4) Take time for you.  This may seem impossible if you’re buried under a pile of work or you’re a manager, but taking even 5 minutes to get up and walk around the office, do some yoga at your desk, say hi to colleagues, get a glass of water, or take a quick walk can actually lead to greater productivity throughout the day.  (See NY Times Article here, which states that it is actually important to take a break before you reach that “mental bottom of the barrel.”

5) See things differently.  Think that you can never “get ahead?”  That your ideas aren’t recognized?  Try brainstorming at a time when you are not stressed out or under pressure, writing down whatever ideas come to you and then tapping into the best, most productive ways to present them.  Get creative. While I am an Employee Assistance Program counselor, this blog came out of thinking outside of the box after a sales and marketing meeting! 

6) Call your EAP.  If you feel that you have a hard time getting jazzed at work or want some in-the-moment support or short-term counseling to deal with feelings of frustration, lack of motivation, or a loss of morale in the office, consider speaking to somebody who doesn’t work with you, who can be unbiased and perhaps help you to see things in a new light.