Instead of self-care, let's talk about self-maintenance. This month, we're focusing on whatever it takes to get by.

By Lauren Berger
Jan 15, 2019 @ 6:30 pm
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You are stressed at work, overwhelmed on the daily, anxious about everything, and constantly feeling unaccomplished. Guess what? It’s not unique to you. So many people are feeling this way — like they are living in a world of chaos controlled by emails and calendars, news alerts, and ill-timed text messages from coworkers with no sense of personal boundaries. Workplace stress is off the charts, and it’s because our personal and professional lives have merged and we just can’t seem to get ahead.

And it’s not just the office-bound desk jockeys among us. People whose workplaces are in the hospitality industry, health care, and even the beauty world experience undue stress on the job — especially when it comes to occupational safety and health, a lack of paid time off, or even insurance coverage or other benefits. A recent study reported in Newsweek found Millennials are the most stressed generation; an internet-breaking report on Buzzfeed News this month renamed it “the Burnout Generation,” detailing exactly how hard it is out there, in the work world and beyond, for anyone making their way as an adult right now. The struggle is real, and it’s universal. But how do we fix it? In many cases, the answers are industry-specific, and as a business-owner and author, I’m going to share what has worked for me. If you want to manage stress and relieve its negative effects on other areas of your life, here are five tips that have helped me feel good, and work better.

Set Boundaries

Before you shrug off this advice, promise you’ll consider it. What boundary can you set at work with your boss, colleagues, or team? I promise, this can minimize stress as it gives you more time for YOU, and for you to handle what you need to during the hours that you’re at your desk. So much of the issue at work is that instead of handling our own to-do lists we’re busy corresponding with everyone about everything. What professional boundary can you set to give yourself more time to focus? “Fixing” this by simply working longer hours and squeezing your own tasks into the margins is like putting a Band-aid on an open gash. Instead, perhaps you can ask a colleague not to text you before 9 a.m. or to send emails instead of texts. Perhaps you ask your boss to have the hours of 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with your child (and promise you’ll get back to her right afterward). It's not realistic for everyone to expect to work a hard-and-fast 9-to-5 schedule, but that doesn't mean that lines can't be drawn.

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Embrace Disconnection

Personally, I took my email off my phone this year and I can’t tell you how much BETTER it’s made me at my job. When I check my emails the timing is much more intentional, I’m better able to handle the responses, and better able to disconnect. I don’t find myself just scrolling email to scroll email. I know that disconnecting email from your phone isn’t practical for everyone in 2019 but we can all work to find a way to disconnect. As an example, maybe you find one hour each day (at home and at work) to turn off your phone completely and just focus on something else. Perhaps you vow to not look at your phone first thing in the morning. Or maybe you go to brunch or on a walk and leave your phone at home (on purpose). Finding small ways to disconnect will help you better handle your stress at work and at home. And when you start small, you can trust that your whole job isn't going to blow up while you're tuned out.

Start With the Things That Suck

This is the same thinking that goes into those recommendations that you workout first thing in the morning, or add a cup of raw kale to the smoothie you chug for breakfast. We all have tasks that we want to do and tasks we don’t want to do. Challenge yourself to start your day by writing that boring report, or tackling whatever the most “ugh”-inducing items on your list might be. This will ensure that you are leaving the day feeling accomplished, therefore enabling you to feel less stressed. Not only do you get to check something off your list (the BEST feeling), but you can go to sleep without that garbage report hanging over your head.

RELATED: I Thought I Needed Sleeping Pills — Turns Out I Needed a Divorce

Determine Your Three Things

Okay this is a variation on the last tip, but it’s good enough to stand on its own. What are the three things you absolutely need to accomplish before you leave the office? We know, you have 100 things. Guess what? You won’t finish those. There’s no chance. So what are the real-deal, top-three, these have to happen today items? Start your morning with those and you’ll feel successful before lunch, and downright jubilant on your commute home knowing that they won't be staring you down when you return to work tomorrow.

Work Ahead

Something my team is really focusing on this year is working ahead of our deadlines instead of working to hit deadlines on deadline day. When you are behind on everything (or “in the red,” as we call it) you are going to feel stressed out and overwhelmed. Getting a handle on your workload will not only pay dividends for your mental health, but it’ll help minimize the stressful situations you find yourself in when, inevitably, something (metaphorically) catches fire at the last minute. Start giving yourself reasonable timelines and working ahead to meet deadlines for next week and the week after (instead of trying to hit the deadlines for today). In order to get here, you may have to work weekends or other off hours in order to catch up — and, yes, that can feel stressful and tiring. Limit it to the amount of time it’ll take you to get back in the black, and then you can resume your normal working hours with way less stress.

Lauren Berger is the founder and CEO of Intern Queen and Career Queen and author of Get It Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, and Design Your Success.