Who coined the phrase “I love stress!”? That’s right—no one ever. Now here in the spring semester, it’s time to identify, shed away, and prevent future stressors in your professional life.
Even if in love with your job, everyone has felt some level of stress in the workplace. Stress is common, and even beneficial in spurts or small doses, however chronic stress can be debilitating to your physical and psychological health. Common sources of stress in the workplace include:
- Lack of social support or respect
- Lack of professional development and growth
- Overwhelming job-related tasks or deadlines
- Unclear expectations of performance
- Unsatisfactory salary/wages
Below are just a few of the potential effects of chronic stress. Hint: none of them are good!
- Short temper
- Difficulty sleeping/waking
- Lack of concentration
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
It’s important to identify the above symptoms as warning signs of chronic stress levels. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies to manage stress, both by prevention and treatment. Here are just a few:
- Develop healthy habits. Surprise—exercise is good! Thankfully, you don’t need a gym to lead a fit, healthy lifestyle. Anything from yoga, to moderate walks, to regular stretching in the office or home can make a difference in keeping stress levels down. Eat a healthy, protein/fiber-rich breakfast in the morning. Even if it means waking up an extra 20 minutes earlier, it will be more beneficial to your health, focusing your mind and body on the tasks of the day. Lacking a hobby? Find or create one! Whether it’s making time to pick up a favorite novel, or going to casual social gatherings, it’s a great way to relax and take your mind off work.
- Recharge—even while at work. Staring at a computer or phone for hours at a time, multiple days a week can have serious consequences for your stress level, even if you don’t realize it immediately. Find time during your office hours to briefly leave the desk. Have a conversation with a coworker, take an actual lunch or water break, or whatever helps you de-stress. Your to-do list will survive the short period that you’re away.
- Make stress your best friend (no, that’s not a typo). Most of us have had that all-important paper or project due the next morning—with nothing done the night before. Many of us still have been tasked with delivering a presentation in front of 20, 30, even 100+ audience members, about a topic we don’t even fully understand ourselves. Sound familiar? Sweating by just reading this? You’re not alone. However, we know that increased levels of stress can light a light a fire under us, providing the burst of energy needed to get the job done. While this should not be the go-to method for every work-related task, stress can aid us in a pinch in times such as this.
- Communicate with others. Everyone handles stress differently, that’s just a fact. However, we all have friends and colleagues who hold onto stress for far too long without talking it out with others. If you are one of those people, few things can help you manage stress better than communicating with others, whether it be your supervisor, colleagues, or a career counselor (Northeastern’s Office of Career Development can help with this!). If bringing up job-related stressors with your supervisor, keep in mind that the purpose is not to unload a laundry list of complaints; instead, it should be to mutually come up with a plan to effectively manage the stressors you’re dealing with. Tip: most supervisors and managers can connect the dots between healthy, productive employees and effective work product. Have the conversation—you might be relieved to how quickly a solution arises!
Don’t forget that the Office of Career Development can help you manage certain aspects of your stress levels. For instance, stressing over the idea of choosing a career path or switching majors? Having difficulties preparing for the eventual post-graduation lifestyle? Struggling with the process of finding a summer internship? Stop by the Stearns Center for a brief 15 minute walk in, or set up an hour-long appointment with a career counselor to have a conversation on how to meet your career goals!
This guest post was written by Jabril Robinson, a Career Development intern and graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program here at NU.