Why You're Stressed And How To Handle It

Coping can be arduous for a feeling as familiar and regular as work stress. This is especially true when the stress is sudden and without clear reason. Being blindsided by a wave of anxiety will wreck you emotionally and kill your productivity for seemingly no reason. Regardless, there is still a cause; your body is reacting to some form of unseen stimuli. While general stress management techniques can - and do - alleviate the pressure, it is impossible to work preemptively against anxiety without knowing the root cause.

Figuring out the cause of your stress can take time. Feelings (e.g. stress) are difficult to work with because they are abstract, and you need hard data. Taking out as much abstraction from the process of retrospection as possible will help you find the causes of your stress. 

If tracking stress seems elusive, don’t fret. Pinning down a single aspect of a system as complex as the mind takes practice. If quantifying stress itself seems too broad, focus instead on the symptoms. Keep track of behaviors or physical symptoms that tend to accompany your stress, such as fatigue, irritability, and social withdrawal -- all of these are among common symptoms of stress, according to Mayo Clinic. Once you decide what exactly you are going to monitor, it is time to start taking note.

There is no right way to track your stress. Find what works best for you. You can try  recording your level of stress on a scale of 1 to 10 in a journal; perhaps the best way for you is through a mood tracking app such as Daylio (note: cannot be personalized to more specific moods, but does provide a place to list the day’s activities and graphs patterns) or Moodtrack Diary (also graphs patterns for you automatically). The best method is the one with which you can stick. As you begin to amass this information, patterns will probably start to appear. Cross-reference the stressful days with your work calendar to find the cause.

Once you’ve uncovered the cause, you can work to alleviate the stress ahead of time. Curate a relaxing routine tailored to what is causing this extra stress. For example, if your stress levels rise on the days of your weekly staff meeting, plan to get to work early to get comfortable in the conference space. Block off part of the evening before so you have time to practice, relax, and get to bed early. Find what prepares and relaxes you and get ahead of your stressor.

If you still can’t find a direct cause of your work stress and it continues to persist, it could have something to do with the overall work environment. Some of it will be out of your control; you may not be able to change the managerial procedures or make the office milieu more supportive. But knowing the reasons behind your stress can suggest specific remedies that will still help you. Channel the stress over managerial procedure into revamping your own daily schedule to be more productive. If support cannot be found within the office, be sure to have time with close friends with whom you can talk out your work conflicts.

There are situations where chronic occupational stress can stem from something in your control, such as exorbitant workloads. If your stress levels are already high, carefully assess how much you have on your plate before agreeing to take on yet another project.

Trying to figure out your stressors can be hard, but there still ways to combat stress before you know what needs to be targeted. Keep a good book in your desk drawer or take a walk as a reprieve during lunch. Find a great playlist to listen to on the way so you walk through the door with confidence. Work stress is a battle, but you are not alone. Seriously -- the American Psychological Association states that 65% of Americans are stressed out because of their occupation. Getting into a healthy mindset takes time and effort, but it is possible.

As the adage goes, knowledge is power. It is easier to ignore work stress than to confront it but doing the difficult thing now will pay off in the long run. When you know what you are fighting, you can stop taking stabs in the dark and instead strategize on how to deal with these stressors. Taking time to confront your work anxieties now will make it easier to work hard because you will know exactly what you are facing and how to deal with it; you will go farther because you can endure more.