In North American work culture, continual hard work is considered the key to climbing the corporate ladder, which is regarded as the ultimate end goal. Work culture places pressure on getting back to “the grind” after any time off and on being productive and focused without stopping during work hours. But society also celebrates when the boundaries of work hours themselves are pushed past the traditional eight hour work day, and oftentimes the image of the working professional putting in extra hours by getting up early and/or staying up late to work is romanticized. Essentially, North America has a predominant work culture that places the utmost emphasis and pride on working professionals who invest everything they have into their work in order to become successful and therefore happy. This narrative is prevalent in the media and even sometimes in workplace expectancies.
However, in 2021 where there is a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of self care and mental wellbeing, people now understand the necessity of rest for a healthy mind and body. Rather than constantly pushing and working, people are learning to romanticize the ideal of a working professional whose life isn’t entirely dominated by work but instead also includes ample time for self care, time with loved ones, and much needed time for rest.
So how do you justify the divide between the pressure to work hard and a focus on personal time? It can certainly be a wobbly line to walk. One way to be able to take pride and joy from working hard and productively but still ensuring your health and wellness are balanced is to reduce any anxiety that comes from your work. Not only do you face stress from your work itself, but the ever shifting layout of the workforce–with recent changes being made regarding remote work versus the hybrid work model versus returning to the office–adds additional uncertainty and pressure to your routine.
Stress at work is an unfortunately common experience but it doesn’t need to become commonplace. Top business professionals and owners were asked for their advice on the easiest ways to decrease anxiety during the workweek and their answers should provide easily incorporated relief into your stressful work life. Keep reading to learn their top tips for mental health at work.
Take Time to Exercise
The co-founder and CEO of the digital interactive how-to guide Minerva Knows suggests you get daily exercise in order to experience a stress relieving activity every day. He points out the known benefits of exercise, one of which is reducing anxiety and boosting mental health.
“Exercise is a crucial method for healing anxiety. Luckily with the flexible work schedule that our remote work model offers, I’m able to fit in some exercise when I have some free time during my work day. Exercise helps to improve physical health, which in turn contributes to positive mental health. It helps reduce stress and boosts energy levels, which leaves me feeling more focused and positive throughout the work week,” says Joaquín Roca, Co-Founder & CEO of Minerva Knows LLC.
Prioritize a Clean Inbox
Co-founder of Cleared Technologies, Ryan Rockefeller, agrees that a wise practice for effectively starting your work day is to prioritize getting the small stuff out of the way, such as emails. By sorting through your email inbox first thing you ensure your stress levels decrease with the knowledge that you have a handle on the tasks you need to complete that day.
“Try to always start your day by taking a look through your email inbox. We all know how stressful it can feel to have messages waiting on your response sitting in your inbox all day. Especially if you are a person who experiences anxiety over the idea of leaving other people waiting, this tip is for you. Clean out your inbox first thing when you start work in the morning; you can quickly reassign tasks for others and get them off your to-do list, and provide responses that can be quickly handled, as well as flag and make note of the tasks you’ll need to return to. Then, knowing your emails won’t loom over your day, you can begin your morning,” says Ryan Rockefeller, Co-Founder and CEO of Cleared.
Leave Work at Work
The growth marketing manager of the cocktail company Ohza recommends you set a clear division between your work and home spaces to ensure you get a mental break from work and can take uninterrupted personal time before and after your work hours.
“The best advice I have learned in my time as a working professional on how to reduce work week anxiety is creating clear boundaries for myself in my work and personal lives. If you’re a person who creates your own work hours or even just someone who really enjoys work it can be difficult to mark that line of where work takes place and where living takes place–it’s especially hard in 2021 when many of us are working from home or just learning to redefine what our work space looks like. I can find myself tempted to just continue working all night if I don’t set rules. What works for me is not bringing work home so my house is a work-free zone. Sometimes I have to stay at work a little later to make this happen, but it’s worth it to me to have that time away from work at home. If you must bring work home, designate work-free spaces in your house as well as work-free time frames for your day,” says Riley Burke, Growth Marketing Manager of Ohza.
Take Brain Breaks
The CEO and founder of data science and machine learning company Medalogix, Dan Hogan, suggests that taking regular brain breaks is a great way to funnel stress; he personally follows this advice by allowing himself time to focus on a fun activity so his mind wanders from his work anxiety but still stays active in the moment.
“There are footballs, golf balls, softballs, chess boards, Legos–everything a curious kid could dream of–covering our office space. Whenever I’m stuck on an idea, I play a quick game of catch or build a Lego house to give my brain a breather. Then it’s back to the drawing board. I encourage my team to do the same thing, too. Just like any muscle, your brain needs a recovery session after a tough workout,” says Dan Hogan, Founder and CEO of Medalogix.
Use Your Commute Time to Take Calls
Most people are familiar with at least some type of commute to and from work each day and the founder and CEO of business funding company Capify, David Goldin, recommends you use that time well in order to get a head start on your work day.
“I like to schedule some of my most important calls during my morning drive to the office. While it can be frustrating at times to have a long commute, not to mention often getting stuck in traffic, I find this time very useful for scheduling calls that are uninterrupted. It also allows me to accomplish a lot more for the day when I get into the office, knowing these important conversations have already taken place and I can focus on other matters,” says David Goldin, CEO and Founder of Capify.
Prepare In Advance
They say practice makes perfect, and this is essentially what the founder of the alcohol delivery business TapRM advises as well in order for you to decrease anxiety at work.
“Whatever tasks come up for you at work, whether it be a meeting, a presentation, or an assignment, take the time to prepare in advance. I promise that one of the best ways to remove unnecessary stress from a work task is to sit down with the assignment, look it over, do your research, and simply prepare. Then at least you have an accurate understanding of the necessary scale of the project and you can adjust your mental picture and timeframe around the steps you need to take in order to complete it. Once you have a solid handle on the task the stress melts away as you work towards the end goal,” says Jason Sherman, Founder of TapRm.
Who doesn’t love a good list? Checking off those little boxes and crossing out the item to-do is certainly one of the most satisfying actions. But lists weren’t just made to be crossed off; they’re also one of the best methods for staying organized and reducing stress surrounding your tasks.
“I’m a personal fan of the list; I like to write my tasks down by hand as an act of pouring everything taking up space in my mind onto paper. Then you organize it by priority and make note of the deadlines. Having all your assignments written down in one place feels reassuring. Plus, then you get the great joy of checking off the tasks when done like a physical release. Talk about the feeling of a weight off your shoulders,” says Daniel Patrick, Founder of DANIEL PATRICK
While you’re making your lists, or just adding assignments to your calendar, don’t forget to arrange projects in order of their priority level. The co-founder and CEO of Rooted Plants recommends figuring out what to prioritize so you can avoid funneling all your time into a less important task.
“The best way to reduce work induced anxiety is to have a clear focus on what exactly you need to get done. Some projects and assignments take longer while others need to be completed by a certain date. If you’re drowning in confusion over all you need to work on, you simply need to stop, breathe, and figure out what tasks take priority. After all, a messy brain equals a messy life. Therefore, you need to organize your to-do list to organize your mind. Then just work down the list based on what is due first,” says Ryan Lee, Co-founder & CEO of Rooted.
Remember when you were little how adults were always encouraging you to ask questions? Hector Gutierrez, the CEO of the plant milk concentrate product company JOI, reminds that there is no shame in having questions as an adult as well, and clarifying the details of your assignments.
“Sometimes work stress comes from not adequately understanding your role or assignment. Regardless of whether you are new to your position or company, or a seasoned ‘lifer’ at your job, everyone needs to clarify parts of their task sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is much better to clarify an assignment than to complete a ton of work that didn’t need to be done. Once you have a better understanding of what to do I guarantee you will feel better,” says Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI.
Take the Weekends Off
The brand director for Healist Naturals, the hemp-based wellness products brand, advises that weekends are essential time you need to reserve for spending time with loved ones as well as with yourself. So much of the week is spent on or at work, but every person needs to take a break each weekend and relax their mind.
“We often see a pervasive narrative about working professionals’ whole lives being their work. This is actually a pretty damaging concept. While it is great for you to value and enjoy your work and to pour yourself into your role during the work week, don’t forget the importance of rest. Weekends should be spent with your loved ones and provide you with ‘me time.’ If your schedule doesn’t allow for the weekends off, be sure you still take days off mid week. Let’s restore the idea that giving yourself rest is beautiful and encouraging,” says Sarah Pirrie, Brand Director of Healist Naturals.
Schedule Relaxation Time After Work
Anthony Puopolo, the CMO of Rex MD, recommends using the hours after work to spend some much needed time in relaxation. Even if you are sitting all day your mind is hard at work, so take mental and physical time to destress at the end of the day.
“You work tirelessly all day, pouring yourself into your role. But by the end of the day, you’re tired! You’re not the only one; staying focused mentally for a whole day of work and either sitting or moving for the entirety of your day is exhausting. To melt away the stress associated with your job make sure you schedule relaxation time after work. This could look like pampering yourself but more likely your daily relaxation time will look like relaxing your mind, escaping reality for a bit (a good book or podcast will do the trick), moving your body to release the stress hormones, or sitting down with a good meal. However you structure your evening, remember to breathe deeply and foster tranquility,” says Anthony Puopolo, CMO of REX MD.
Get Enough Sleep
The CEO and founder of the sleep pod adult swaddle, Hug Sleep, stresses the importance of getting enough rest at night.
“To prevent anxiety and stress during the work week it is absolutely essential you get enough hours of sleep at night. Not only does not getting the recommended seven or more hours of sleep a night cause brain fog, but it also decreases energy, enhances lethargy, and increases your likeliness of irritability. Your coworkers will thank you for coming to work well rested, but even more so your body deserves the time to fully unwind and recharge at the end of every long day,” says Matthew Mundt, Founder and CEO of Hug Sleep.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Well
How you eat directly impacts how you feel and how your body functions. Therefore, you should be eating wisely while at work to promote your physical and mental wellness. The founder of The Natural Patch Co. reminds how crucial it is to hydrate and eat during the work day.
“If you’re feeling stressed at work, you probably look forward to those moments when you get to take a mental break, such as the period where you eat lunch. Whether you spend lunch in an office, at home, or some hybrid working location, don’t forget to eat a balanced meal in order to refuel your body for the rest of the afternoon. Take time to hydrate by drinking lots of water rather than sugary beverages or highly caffeinated drinks, and make wise food choices for your midday meal. Eating poorly during the workday can exacerbate your feelings of anxiety by leading to lethargy, midday crashing, and brain fog,” says Michael Jankie, Founder of The Natural Patch Co.
Lean On Your Teammates If You Are Struggling
Perhaps most importantly you need to remember that you are not alone at work. Your teammates are there for you, so don’t be worried about opening up if you’re struggling with some aspect of your job.
“It’s normal to experience some stress or anxiety around work, but your feelings shouldn’t last. The moment you begin to feel overwhelmed, know that you deserve to feel mentally healthy at work which is why no one at your workplace is alone. Turn to your teammates with your concerns. Maybe you simply need to take a mental break and talk with a coworker, but if your stress is due to too much work on your plate, don’t hesitate to make an appointment to speak with your teammates. Your fellow workers are all there to support each other; explain your concerns and even ask for extensions or a better understanding of which tasks to prioritize,” says Olivia Young, Head of Product Design of Conscious Items.
Now that you have read these tips and suggestions on how to decrease your anxiety at work through simple actions, hopefully you already feel a sense of relief. While society and the media may portray work and success as an unending “grind” that demands everything from you, the reality is that you can be successful and happy at work without compromising your mental health. Remember to take time for self care each day and to allow work hours to exist during a set time frame you establish. By allowing yourself ample time for both work and rest, but maintaining boundaries between the two, you can be the best version of yourself both at work and at home.