We all know that stress isn’t good for us. In addition to affecting your health and overall well-being, too much stress can also have a negative impact on your career if it’s not properly managed. From interfering with your day-to-day job performance to preventing you from securing raises and promotions, the effects of stress can go beyond burning out at work.
Here are three ways stress can affect you at work and some tips for how to manage it.
IT CAN LEAD TO MISTAKES
The link between high levels of stress and not being able to sleep is well-known, but stress-related insomnia can be more detrimental than simply feeling sluggish at work the next morning. "Under stress, our brains love to help us solve problems at 3 a.m.," says executive coach Lynn Carnes. "But that’s not helpful because the best way to counteract the effects of stress is to sleep. When you go with less sleep than you need night after night, the effects sneak up on you."
When you’re overly tired, basic skills like attention to detail can suffer. “I’ve seen people miss the type of important details that a well-rested brain will catch, like a decimal point in the wrong place on a critical number in a contract or sending the wrong set of documents to the shredder," Carnes says. Frequent mistakes like these could result in being skipped over for key projects, scoring lower on performance evaluations or even missing out on potential raises.
How to manage: If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, Carnes recommends telling yourself that you’ll revisit whatever is bothering you the next day when you’ll have a better perspective. This gives your brain permission to shut down and can help you get your sleep back on track, even in the face of stress. "Ironically, the problems that seem huge in the dark of night are usually quite solvable with fresh eyes in the morning," Carnes says.
IT CAN AFFECT HOW YOU RELATE TO OTHERS
The relationships you have with the people you work with can play a big role in your overall career success. When you're stressed, not only are you unable to fully nurture these relationships, but you could also end up damaging them — think, snapping at an intern, being sarcastic with a coworker or being passive-aggressive with your boss. If this happens too often, your reputation around the office could take a hit.
"Stress and pressure can throw us into survival mode where we tend to be more self-protective rather than generous of spirit," Carnes says. "I tell my clients that they are 'weather makers,' meaning that their mood can either create a lovely spring day or a thunderstorm."
How to manage: A five-minute self-care break can help you reset. Whether that means going outside for some fresh air, calling a friend or even looking at pictures of your kids or pets on your phone, you’ll likely feel a shift in your attitude that can help prevent you from saying something you’ll regret later.
IT CAN ZAP YOUR CREATIVITY
Having fresh ideas and solutions to problems that can help you stand out are crucial to career advancement. But your ability to think strategically can take a hit when your mind is elsewhere. "Perhaps the first job skills that go when you are stressed, tired and running on low energy are creativity, followed by problem solving," Carnes says.
How to manage: When you feel your brainpower start to sputter, Carnes recommends taking a short walk to reset. And if you’re struggling to produce thoughtful contributions, staying hydrated can keep you alert and focused.