Between endless emails, out-of-reach promotions, and overloaded to-do lists, work stress is unavoidable. More often than not, we can’t even leave that stress behind at the office. When we head out for the day, it follows us home.
It is impossible to eliminate work stress from your life — but you can learn to manage it. Exercise, meditation, and a good nutrition plan are all key for long-term management, but what can you do when you’re stuck at your desk and in need of an immediate cooldown?
Some people handle difficult situations better than others. Stress makes some of us crumble, but it sends others into battle mode, ready to conquer whatever obstacle stands in their way.
What’s the difference between these two camps? Mindset.
Any pop psychologist can tell you that situations aren’t inherently good or bad. Rather, it’s all about how we perceive the situation. So, when you find your stress levels rapidly rising at work, try using these three tips to shift your mindset and get the situation under control quickly:
1. Focus on the Solution
Focusing on the problem can cause stress levels to skyrocket. You get overwhelmed by the details and fixated on all the possible negative outcomes that may arise if the problem goes unsolved.
Shifting your focus from the problem to the solution is a key first step in reducing your stress. The keyword here is “focus.” When you’re stressed, you’re doing mental gymnastics, your mind jumping from one disaster to another. When you slow down and really concentrate on one thing — in this case, the solution to a problem — your mind is less likely to spin out of control. It has grounding.
So, the next time you’re stressing out about something, take a step back. It only takes a minute to redirect your thoughts to a more positive end.
2. Stop Blaming Yourself
When you’re stressed, your natural instinct is to look for the cause so you can assign it blame. Often, we end up pointing the blame inward.
The next time you catch yourself berating yourself for a problem, take a step back. It’s time for another mindset shift. Self-blame accomplishes nothing — except for making you feel even worse about the situation. This distorts your outlook and makes it difficult to resolve the problem.
Once again, you need to focus on the real solution. Self-blame won’t solve a thing.
3. Trust Yourself
Work stress can also stem from self-doubt. For example, the excitement of being awarded a big project can turn into stress if you start to doubt your ability to get the job done.
Looking at a problem as a whole can cause those mental gymnastics to start up. Instead, break things down into more digestible bites. When a project feels intimidating, start by mapping out its components. Make note of what you can easily handle on your own and where you may need help. This way, you won’t just have more faith in yourself — you’ll also have a clear roadmap you can follow to success.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.
Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.