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Need to manage stress at work? Try these 4 tips

If you’re among the more than one-third of U.S. employees who drag themselves to a stressful work environment every day, take heart.

There are ways to help you deal with your chronic situation, according to Vicki Greenberg, a board-certified family nurse practitioner and nursing program manager at the University of Phoenix® Southern California Campus.

Here, Greenberg gives her top four coping methods:


Balance your thoughts.

Remember that stress is not something that happens to you — it’s a reaction to what’s happening around you, Greenberg points out.

“Stress is a chemical response to thoughts or ideas we hold in our minds,” she explains. “Balancing our negative, unhappy thoughts about workplace troubles with happier thoughts is a good start.”

She recommends that you make a list of the things you like about your job, such as your paycheck, your boss or the sense of accomplishment you feel when you’ve completed an important project. Add good things to the list, particularly when you’re feeling unhappy, she advises. “I swear it works,” Greenberg says

Eat well, sleep enough and exercise.

A poor diet, lack of sleep and no exercise exacerbate stress, Greenberg notes.

“Processed foods certainly make you feel good while you’re eating them, and many of us head for them as comfort,” she acknowledges. “But in the long run, they’re not helping us because refined sugars and starches cause blood sugar to spike and then crash,” which can leave you feeling sluggish.

A well-nourished body is better equipped to take on challenges, including workplace stress, she adds. Fruits and vegetables, and fare rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like wild rice and salmon, are absorbed more slowly and provide a steady supply of energy, which can help you handle stressful situations more easily, Greenberg emphasizes.

Eight hours of sleep restores energy levels, and the more energy you have, she says, the better position you’ll be in to cope with irritations on the job.

And don’t discount the importance of physical activity. “Get your endorphins flowing by getting up and walking around the office or the parking lot every couple hours,” Greenberg recommends. Another benefit is that movement can decrease cortisol, a hormone released under stress.

Set boundaries for yourself.

Workplace stress often is brought on not by a mean boss or a nasty co-worker, but by the tendency to overcommit.

“We want to get ahead at work,” Greenberg says, “so we overbook and overcommit for fear we’re not achieving [enough] if our plate isn’t always full.”

If possible, determine with your boss and teammates a feasible workload, and then stick to it, she advises. Teach yourself to say “no” to additional projects once your schedule is full. Suggest to your boss that added work could negatively affect the quality of the work already on your plate.

Address personality clashes early.

“No one gets along with everyone all the time,” Greenberg emphasizes. “If you have a problem with a colleague or your boss, consider requesting a [meeting] before things escalate,” she recommends.

She suggests making a mental list of what’s bothering you and figuring out some possible solutions for mending the relationship before the meeting. Ask questions rather than place blame, she says, and try not to be critical or defensive.