3 simple changes to cope with a stressful week at work

It happens to all of us. Deadlines pile up, your to-do list is longer than Thor's beard in End Game, and you feel a rising sense of panic that lingers long after you've left the office. I get it. Been there, stressed about that! Luckily, there are straightforward changes you can adopt immediately that can help you better cope with stress at work. I use the tips below regularly, but they are especially important when I am faced with a daunting work week filled with deadlines, client meetings, and project uncertainties. Even trying out one of the changes below can make a huge difference to how you feel about work, helping you to let go at the end of the day and not spend every second you’re not at the office thinking about all the reasons you should be at the office! I'm so thankful for these tips and they've helped me stay sane (as sane as possible!) through my most trying work weeks.

Start by asking for longer deadlines

Seems obvious, doesn't it? But when was the last time you asked for an extension for a deadline?

Deadlines are one of my biggest sources of stress in the workplace, and they are usually an unnecessary one! A common reason is that you or your manager underestimates the time needed to complete the project. If that's the case, it's an easy fix. Simply take the time to explain the steps you will need to take to deliver the project to the expected standard and any manager worth their salt will understand and grant some flexibility. Contrary to popular belief, studies by Harvard Business Review have shown that 95% of deadline extension requests are granted. The same studies also showed that women are less likely to ask for a deadline extension, for fear that it will make them seem incompetent - but guess what I have learned in my two years managing a team? I have way more trust and respect for colleagues who know when to ask for help than those who try and cope through it silently. Speak up and you'll likely be awarded more time to complete the projects required of you.

Keep sight of long-term goals with 4-5 regular habits

It's easy to lose sight of what is important when you're too busy taking care of what is urgent.

When you're chasing urgent short-term tasks, the work you need to be doing to accomplish your long-term goals gets put on the back burner. By developing regular habits that give your life structure and intention, you add stability and direction even when faced with a hectic, stressful work week!

The key isn't just to clutch at habits at random. Identify why you want to maintain habits and make sure they cover the areas that are important to you, across your personal life, professional goals (e.g. setting aside time for self-development or strategy), relationships and health.

For me, the habits that keep me the most grounded and aligned with my long-term ambitions are setting time aside each week for self-development (continuous learning keeps me engaged at work and makes sure I gain personally from being committed to my career) and sport. Sport is a big one for me: my boyfriend and I joke that we get super cranky if we don’t make it to the gym or out for a run during the week.

Top tip: when setting habits, make sure they align with your long-term goals and that they are well-rounded. For example, you could take a course to improve a skill that is complementary to your career and is something you are passionate about.

Create a routine that helps you let go of your work day so you can leave your work at work

Do you find it difficult to switch off at the end of your work day? Maybe you reply some last-minute emails when making dinner, or check your calendar just before going to bed. If that sounds familiar, you're not the only one that finds it difficult to disconnect from your job at the end of the workday.

To stop work creeping into every area of your life, try creating an end-of-day routine that leaves you in the right frame of mind to leave the office. This could be anything from turning of notifications on your phone for all work-related apps or giving your desk a quick tidy before heading home. It also helps to have an activity that marks the end of the work day, like walking your dog or enjoying a hobby. You can create a routine as simple as having a quick shower and taking off your make-up as soon as you come home, to something more elaborate like a relaxing yoga/meditation sequence that puts you in a relaxed state of mind.

My end-of-day routine goes something like this:

  1. Give my desk a quick tidy and finish off any small tasks that are easy to complete. This is a trick I learned from The Progress Principle as it makes you feel gratified and ends your day on a positive note;

  2. Create to-do list for tomorrow and schedule in time for completing the next day's most important task. This is a life-saver when I am having a stressful week as I can reassure myself that I am addressing the challenge and putting aside time to deal with it;

  3. Shower and change out of work clothes when I arrive home. Okay, so this is less of a 'trick' and more related to pure laziness, but having a relaxing shower and putting on comfy pjs (read = XXL sweat pants and one of the boyfriend's t-shirts) immediately gets me into a cosy, homely mood. I also like to drink a chamomile and lavender tea which is a signal to my body that it can unwind.

How do you deal with a stressful week at work? Will you be trying any of these tips?

Image via Amara