Has work stress been wearing you down during the pandemic? If so, millions of Americans can relate to your struggles. Managing stress at work was a widespread concern before the pandemic began. That’s not overly surprising because if this aspect of your life isn’t going well, every other area will become more difficult.

But with the arrival of the pandemic, work stress anxiety increased exponentially for many. 

Mark Bolino Ph.D. describes these challenges well in his “Psychology Today” article entitled Managing Employee Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus:

“This is a calamitous time, and employees are under tremendous stress, both personally and professionally. For many, this stress is undoubtedly exacerbated by the need to engage in social distancing, which can make people feel even more isolated.” 

Maybe you feel added work-related stress because of:

  • Increased pressure to perform
  • Greater workplace toxicity due to company-wide challenges
  • Job loss
  • COVID-related worries interfering with your job performance
  • Struggles to adapt to rapidly changing work roles/expectations
  • An overall inability to manage your stress levels at work
  • Added family stress because of work interferences
  • Relationship anxiety brought on by work issues
  • A breakdown of physical and mental wellness
  • Sleepless nights due to work anxiety
  • Worries over proper workplace protection from the virus
  • Other possibilities

If you can relate to these challenges, there’s no reason to think you’re the only one facing such a battle. Nearly everyone in the workforce has felt some measure of pandemic-related stress this year. If you’ve been struggling with work lately, here are some ideas on how to cope with stress at work.

Recognize Your Humanity and Limitations

In corporate America, we’re often instinctively taught to avoid acknowledgment of our humanity and limitations at all costs. But one dangerous bi-product of this practice is that when we struggle to push through our workload, it can be perplexing, leading to even further stress and guilt. Sometimes we feel badly broken when really, we’re just human.

If you’re wrestling with how to reduce stress at work, it’s OK to admit if you’re having a tough time. It’s the healthiest thing you can do—practice self-compassion. By opening up about your struggles, you may be surprised to learn that many others feel the same way. 

And if you’re worried that admitting your struggles could jeopardize your career, strongly consider seeing a therapist. Then, you’ll be able to share your concerns in safety with someone professionally trained to assist you.

Figure Out if the Pressure is Coming from You or Your Workplace

Too often, we subconsciously place added pressure on ourselves at work that we don’t have to.  A good question to ask yourself would be, “Is this a genuine work expectation, or am I adding something that doesn’t need to be there.” 

Maybe you arrive early to your job, stay late, or bring additional work home over the weekend. An excellent start for dealing with stress at work is backing away from extra pressure you’ve placed on yourself so you can focus solely on your actual job responsibilities. 

If you don’t, you may find yourself ‘succeeding’ at your additional job expectations while falling short in your true job role. You may also become chronically plagued by job burnout if you don’t set proper limits and boundaries. 

Keep Track of How You Think About Work and Yourself

We all have an internal dialogue (conversation) that runs throughout our day, helping us process decisions. While this is a valuable mechanism, it can also sometimes battle against you without you even knowing. If you don’t become aware of your internal dialogue, it could become hijacked by self-defeating and negative thoughts. Unfortunately, a negative, distorted and even abusive self-dialogue is all too common.

Ironically, some individuals would get fired from their jobs if they talked to others like they converse with themselves. Talk about unnecessary workplace stress! They’d also likely leave an abusive workplace, possibly at great financial cost, if others spoke to them as they interact with themselves.

What’s the takeaway here? If you’re at an abusive or toxic workplace and it’s killing your soul, by all means, prepare an exit strategy. At the same time, don’t underestimate your ability to be your own worst enemy.

Observe those negative and distorted thoughts. Then, replace them with accurate and positive ones. By learning to do this consistently, you may be surprised by how significant of a drop in stress levels you experience.

A word of caution is that changing an internal script that’s run wild since your childhood will be challenging. This is especially true when you’re just beginning the CBT journey. Working with a counselor to learn cognitive behavioral therapy and other approaches can give you a big advantage when discovering how to manage stress at work.

Consider Counseling to Help Manage Your Work Stress

While this article is a good starting point on how to handle stress at work, seeing a licensed counselor could be a good idea. Through therapy, you’ll learn evidence-based ways to reduce stress at work. You’ll also discover a unique plan tailored to your situation and personality to help you overcome pandemic-related workplace stress. 

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with the OC Relationship Center, feel free to get in touch. We provide individual, relationship, and marriage counseling in Mission Viejo, CA and Newport Beach, CA. Teletherapy is also available during the pandemic and in the future.