Stress is normal in workplaces in the social sector, isn’t it? We’re so used to dealing with other people’s problems that they become an inseparable part of our own lives.
For me, the hardest part of my first job in a non-profit organization was to separate my private life from my profession. I was helping extremely poor people obtain useful skills that would help them get jobs, so I was witnessing their struggles on a daily basis. I felt guilty coming back to my comfortable home after the hard day of work, knowing that these people didn’t have the same thing. In addition, I had to work on several different projects at a time, so it was difficult for me to stay focused and get all tasks done without taking some of the work home.
At one point, I realized that I was so occupied with the job that I had no personal life at all. My days were being consumed by stress, which certainly affected my performance. If you recognize yourself somewhere in the experiences I’ve shared, you’ll be glad to know that I surpassed that period. It took me some time and a great deal of commitment to learn how to overcome work stress, but the results were totally worth the effort. Below are a few of the strategies I used:
1. Start with a calendar!
The first step of my stress-management process was developing a detailed calendar. I used Google Calendar to note important project deadlines, meetings, seminars, and other responsibilities related to my work. Then, I used the remaining dates to plan the development of those projects stage by stage. Once I created daily to-do lists and had the plan in front of me, it was much easier for me to complete the tasks. Suddenly, I realized there was almost enough time for me to handle everything without being stressed about the deadlines.
If you keep the schedule in your head, you won’t be able to plan all steps within an effective timeframe. When you see your responsibilities in a clear outline, the goals don’t seem impossible to achieve. Believe it or not, the calendar will relieve you from a great deal of stress.
2. Create a distraction-free environment
When you share an office with other social workers, it can get really loud in there. Plus, if part of your job includes using social media websites and other means of online communication, you can easily end up getting lost in the newsfeeds, wasting valuable time and getting all frantic before the end of the working hours. I’ve been there!
I found that creating a distraction-free environment was a necessary part of the stress-relief program I developed. When you work in an inspiring setting, it’s easier to stay focused on the actual job. Try using noise-cancelling headphones, a Pomodoro timer, or another gadget that would help you resist distractions. Strict Workflow and StayFocusd are great Google Chrome extensions that keep you away from distracting websites.
Your personal space in the office can also make a difference. When your surroundings are a total mess, your thoughts become a mess, too! I noticed that as soon as I cleaned up my desk and picked up a more comfortable chair, the stress levels went down.
3. Recognize the warning signs
When I first started experiencing constant headaches at a specific time of the day, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I did several tests and the doctor realized that the headaches, apathy, and fatigue I was going through were signs of excessive stress. If you recognize these symptoms earlier, you’ll address the problem before it takes over your life.
Do you notice frequent headaches, muscle tension, stomach problems, trouble concentrating, and unusual fatigue? Do you have problems sleeping? Go to your doctor to do some tests. If you can’t find an underlying reason, the stress factor is probably the cause of all discomfort you’re experiencing. In that case, it’s best to take action without delays. Taking a vacation, signing up for a yoga class, or seeking out a therapist are a few options.
4. Change your diet
When you’re occupied with work, you might be likely to eat in a hurry or turn to junk food. A salad won’t make you feel full for several hours, so you think you need a calorie bomb to keep you going. I ate more hamburgers, donuts, cakes, and bacon sandwiches than you can count. They didn’t give me the energy I needed. In fact, I was feeling really sleepy and tired after a heavy meal. When my doctor suggested a healthy diet, I thought I wouldn’t make it. However, I included several colorful, tasty, and energizing meals in my daily plans and I immediately started feeling better. You don’t have to prepare those meals at home if you don’t have time for them; there are plenty of delivery services that offer healthy options. Change your diet; you’ll thank me later.
If you’re under stress, the important thing to keep in mind is to identify the causes. Try to stay positive. You love this job! You found your purpose in helping other people, so you can’t allow yourself to suffer because of that. Try the 4 methods I suggested above and let me know how they work for you.
About the Author: Kate Simpson is a young writer for Assignment Masters, and is always seeking creativity and inspiration in unusual destinations. Her main hobbies are photography and 19th-century impressionism.