Earlier this year, CareerCast shared its list of the least and most stressful jobs for 2014, based on factors like physical demands, hazards encountered, deadlines, and environmental conditions.
Some of the least stressful jobs included seamstress, dietician, and multimedia artist. Unsurprisingly, professions like enlisted military personnel, fire-fighters and police officers were ranked as being some of the most stressful due to the unpredictable conditions and risks involved.
But although some jobs are certainly more harrowing than others, we all deal with work-related stress on a daily basis.
According to the annual Stress and Wellbeing Survey by the Australian Psychological Society, stress levels were significantly higher in 2013 than in previous years, with nearly half of working Australians rating issues in the workplace as a source of stress.
In the US, a work stress survey by Harris Interactive found that 83% of Americans were stressed at work. Unreasonable workload, poor compensation, and frustration with co-workers and commutes were cited as some of their top stressors.
Fortunately, over the years research has uncovered a number of strategies for tackling workplace stress. Here are some simple but effective ways to manage stress in the workplace.
1. Organize your workspace and schedule
Taking control of your environment and schedule can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stressing unnecessarily.
A study from University College London found that when faced with a messy work environment, people immediately experience a rise in stress and anxiety levels. Before you start work each day, take a few minutes to tidy up your papers, remove any day-old coffee cups, empty waste paper baskets, and open a window to let in some fresh air.
When it comes to your schedule, figure out what you can control (such as when to take your lunch break or the order in which you’ll complete certain tasks) and what is set in stone (the meeting with your boss, for example). This will help you manage your time more efficiently and maintain as much control as possible over your everyday routines.
2. Step outside
Nature can help people respond better to disruptive events, and a study led by the University of Edinburgh shows that people’s stress levels are directly related to the amount of green space in their area. In fact, the researchers found that for every 1% increase in green space, there was a corresponding steeper decline in participants’ stress levels.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a quick stroll in the park. If there isn’t much green space near your workplace, you could make an effort to take a nature walk before heading to work each day.
3. Tune in to distractions
Noisy office environments can be difficult to cope with, but strangely enough, trying to block out the conversation that’s happening two desks over or ignore the sound of your colleague tapping their pen on the table may actually be more stressful than paying attention to it.
Mindfulness experts, like author and journalist Dr. Danny Penman, believe that tuning in to a distraction can prevent you from feeling stressed out. This is because being aware of a distraction and observing the effect it has on your body (tense muscles, clenched jaw, etc) tends to rob it of its power and helps you to relax.
4. Talk it out
Healthy and supportive relationships have been shown to reduce stress, and a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that chatting to your mum on the phone reduces a key stress hormone and causes oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, to be released.
Of course, you may not want to call your mother every time you’re having a difficult day at work, but chatting to a friend or close relative can lower your stress levels and also help you to see your situation from another perspective.
5. Adopt a more positive outlook on stress
Stress is bad, right? Well, not necessarily – according to a research study from Yale University, it all depends how you look at it.
The researchers presented some experiment subjects with information showing that stress can be beneficial, while others were told that it is debilitating. Those who had been exposed to positive information about stress reported improved psychological symptoms and better work performance.
So not only could adopting a more positive attitude toward stress can help you to deal with it more effectively, it could even transform your stress into something good that enhances your performance, health and personal growth.
(About the Author: Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges. She covers educational psychology, career development and workplace productivity. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+, or find her latest articles here.)