This article was based on episode 47 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the mini-guide here or the full guide at Patreon.
Stress seems to be the new normal at work. It’s no longer a matter of whether you’re stressed but rather how bad it is and how close you are to burnout.
Job burnout is not the same as depression or other diagnosable mental conditions. Note: If you are concerned that you may have depression or another mental or emotional condition that is impacting or being impacted by your work, see your doctor.
Burnout occurs when you are physically or emotionally exhausted from work in ways that lead to a sense of lack of accomplishment, reduced motivation, and loss of personal identity. Burnout, while an extreme case, is not the only thing to pay attention to. Before reaching burnout, you’ll experience heightened levels of stress, frustration, overload and overwhelm, all of which need to be taken seriously.
STRESS COMES FROM MANY SOURCES
According to The Mayo Clinic, a rise in stress that leads to job burnout can result from a number of factors including:
A Lack of control. You aren’t able to influence decisions that affect your job — like your schedule, assignments or workload. Or, you don’t have the resources you need to do your work.
Unclear expectations. You don’t know what is expected from you, how your performance will be measured, or what responsibilities you have.
Extremes of activity. The job itself is monotonous or chaotic, requiring constant energy to remain focused.
Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. You feel bullied or undermined by your colleagues or boss.
Lack of social support. It may not be as severe as dysfunction, but you feel isolated at work or don’t have support in your personal life to help you manage your frustrations.
Work-life imbalance. Work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to refuel or spend time with your family and friends.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to check in with your team members to ensure you’re not contributing unnecessarily to their stress levels. As yourself the following question and consider what you’re noticing about your team members. For a full list of questions, check out free episode mini-guide.
Are you currently experiencing any of the factors that lead to burnout?
Have you become cynical or critical at work?
Do you find yourself irritated by things that normally wouldn’t bother you?
Are you reacting to things in ways that seem out of character for you?
Do you find it difficult to concentrate or hard to motivate even though you know there is so much to do?
Do you have or are you making time for non-work activities like family, sleep, and self care?
Is work always on your mind so that even when you’re relaxing, you can’t relax?
If you notice changes in your behavior or the behavior of others, or are experiencing factors that increase stress, now is the time to do something about your stress management. The following are a number of tips and approaches I use or others have recommended.
10 APPROACHES TO MANAGING STRESS
Have a go-to stress reliever that works for you. When you hit a moment of overload, knowing what will help you regain that sense of calm is critical. Try taking a walk, breathing deeply, talking it out with a safe buddy (not a co-worker).
Consider changing the situation. Is it time to let go of a team member who you’ve been dealing with for too long? Do you need to hire a new team member to take on some of your responsibilities? Do you need to speak with your manager about clarifying expectations or responsibilities, an unhealthy dynamic with a colleague, or something else that is creating unnecessary stress? Maybe it’s even time to change organizations, switch fields or roles, or move on to a new career. Check out episode 19: Time Management Methods, Mindsets and Approaches for more on how to manage your time more effectively and increase your capacity.
Change your environment. Sometimes the environment itself can induce stress. If you are able, work from home, a coffee shop or other location. Even just a day or two can give you uninterrupted time to work, a break from some unhealthy dynamics, or a sense of control that you’d been missing.
Schedule a no-meetings day once per month. Block your calendar to give you one full day of uninterrupted time. Use it to catch up on email or small tasks, do focused work, big picture thinking and planning, or self care.
Admit when something is too much. Sometimes you just need to admit to yourself and others that too much is too much. If you have a boss, ask them to help you prioritize. If you’re the boss, figure out what is most important, what can be delayed, delegated, done ‘good enough’ or let go of completely.
Know what’s most important. We all have to make trade-offs. It’s easier when your values and priorities are clear. It’s not necessarily less painful, but try not to feel guilty when you make a choice in line with your values, like choosing to be home for dinner instead of making one more graph for that report.
Invest in your health. You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again. Take care of your body with regular exercise, enough sleep, healthy food and plenty of water. A healthy body helps lower stress and supports a healthy mind.
Nourish your soul. Recharge with something you love. Go on vacation, see a band play, cook a meal, spend time with friends. Do something that feels good even if it takes extra effort to make it happen or you anticipate it being harder upon your return.
Bring humor and joy into the workplace. Things at work can get tense, but when the atmosphere is one of humor and playfulness, it’s easier to manage. Celebrate milestones, use emoji, try out a Mad Lib on Slack with your team.
Remember why you’re doing the work you’re doing. Stress is more bearable when it’s part of some bigger purpose. Remind yourself what you find meaningful at work - your organization’s mission, some aspect of your role, the relationships with your colleagues.
Stress is no joke. Take care of yourself and support your team members to take care of themselves, too.
To help you recognize signs of stress in yourself and your team members, check out the free miniguide for today's episode. The full guide for this episode, available to members of the Modern Manager community on Patreon contains additional tips for how to manage stress.
This article was based on episode 47 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.