Do you feel like you’re always stressed on the job? Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Some 83 percent of American workers say they often feel stressed at their jobs. If this isn’t bad enough, apparently our workplace lives are just getting more stressful. The same poll by Harris Interactive for Everest College found only 73 percent of workers cited frequent stress just last year, meaning our stress levels have risen by 10 percent in just 12 months.
Unsurprisingly, work stress is bad for your health and for your productivity. Rushing around in a frenzy can actually infect your team with second-hand stress, according to DePaul University professor Robert S. Rubin. Plus, the more we rush, the less we’re able to focus on any one specific task.
“No one wants to be seen as the slowest moving object in the solar system. You have to keep up with the Joneses—literally,” Ben Jacobson, co-founder of Conifer Research, told The Wall Street Journal.
Whatever happened to workplace simplicity? It’s time to cut back on your stress by taking a few simple steps to declutter your work life. Here are a few ways to go back-to-basics and show your career stress the door:
1. Kick Your Email Addiction
This might be hard to face, but it’s best to just tackle the truth directly: you have an addiction and it’s your inbox. So many workers spend much of their day just playing catch-up to their emails. You might be in the middle of work when you hear the siren beep of a new email zooming into your inbox, and suddenly your work is halted so you can take a look.
It’s time to detox from your inbox. Choose a few times during your day to check your email and stick to this schedule no matter what. For instance, you can check once in the morning, once around lunch, and a follow-up time an hour or two before clocking out. By limiting the amount of time you spend lost in your inbox, you can tune out the noise and allow yourself to focus.
2. Steer Clear of Workplace Drama
You came to your office to work and yet somehow your workplace has become more political than an episode of House of Cards. Office politics hurts company morale, and 47 percent of workers feel office politicking also hurts productivity. Sadly, a study by by Robert Half International found 60 percent of workers felt like they had to play the game.
Don’t get caught up in stressful office politics. Let your work speak for itself and take yourself out of negative situations where gossip flows and hurt feelings flourish. One of the best ways to simplify your work life is to steer clear of the drama.
3. Give Yourself a Break
If you feel like you’ve hit a wall after lunch, know you’re not alone. According to research, your body hits a sleepiness peak around 2 p.m.
Instead of taking a nap, which is still frowned upon in many workplaces, give yourself a little mental break. Take a few minutes to check in with friends on social media or take a walk outside to clear your head. Don’t stress if your attention is lagging — instead, give yourself permission to let your mind wander.
4. Surround Yourself With Positivity
It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re looking at a picture of a baby animal. This is certainly what researchers at Hiroshima University discovered when they found pleasant images such as tiny kittens make workers more productive.
To cut down on stress, surround your office space with positive images. Don’t leave your office or cubicle empty — fill it with planets, posters, and pictures of loved ones. A positive work environment can work as a pick-me-up when you get particularly stressed.
5. Communicate Regularly
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t think your voice is being heard by upper management. In fact, less than one-third of workers felt management would change practices based on suggestions and feedback provided by employees. You want to be respected at your company, and the best way is to make your voice heard. Cultivate communication networks with your coworkers, your team, and your boss. If your workload is overwhelming, don’t be afraid to say something and ask for practical solutions to cut down on your stress levels.
6. Learn to Say No
You might want to do everything and tackle every possible challenge, but sometimes the biggest challenge is finding the strength to say no. Taking on too much responsibility is the best way to end up burnt out and feeling frayed. Research by the University of California in San Francisco found people with difficulty saying no are more likely to experience stress. While unpleasant, sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is bow out gracefully and avoid overextending yourself.
7. Take Note of Your Silver Linings
It’s easy to let the little stresses on the job pile up and blot out the things you genuinely love about the job. Every day, take a few minutes from your schedule to jot down your workplace “silver linings.” Write down a project you’re excited about tackling, a nice thing a coworker did, or even a reminder of why you love your job. It’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill, but don’t let the daily grind rid you of your career passion.
Stress doesn’t have to weigh down your career. To become happier and more productive, it’s time to simplify your working life.