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Are You Stressing Out at Work for No Reason?

If you’re stressing from nine to five, you may want to re-examine what you’re stressing about.

It's understandable that you want to make a good impression at work. You don't want to be viewed as a slacker, nor do you want to create challenging scenarios with your boss or co-workers. At the same time, if you're too tense or attempt to be perfect, then you could be setting yourself up for a tough road without even knowing it.

Throughout my twenties, I would often stress about the little things at work that in hindsight, I realize are truly little things that no one cared about. To help you start managing stress at work and let go of the need to be perfect, consider some of the items you might be worrying about without good reason. Below are some items I find many employees stress over that, at the end of the day, aren't worth the work stress.

Time to face facts: You're not perfect.

This point deserves an article in and of itself, but I believe it's important to at least touch on it to set the stage for the other items provided below.

So, let's get one thing clear—you're not perfect. No one is. In fact, research shows that perfectionism is a hindrance to overall success. It adds undue stress, impacts our ability to connect with one another, and in many cases, prevents us from completing projects and tasks. Researcher and University of Houston Professor, Dr. Brené Brown, shares in her book, "Daring Greatly (pp. 129)," the following:

"Perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people's expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds."

Brené also spoke with Oprah about perfectionism and fear on a previous episode of Super Soul Sunday, which you might find interesting.

With time, I was able to ease up on myself and let go of much of the perfectionism—many of us are "recovering perfectionists," to borrow a term from my dear friend, writer, and founder of Art Saves Lives, Susan Blair—that was negatively impacting my life and work. Doing so helped my stress level decrease and my work productivity increase.

Below are a few examples of workplace incidents that might be making you stressed at work, but shouldn’t be.

You missed a regularly scheduled meeting.

Many of us have a full plate at work, and sometimes, scheduling conflicts will arise. Though you are expected to show up, contribute and learn at regularly scheduled meetings, such as team or staff meetings, there will be times when you'll have to miss a meeting, or even forget about it! It's OK. Don’t let it make you stressed at work.

Let the meeting facilitator or head know that you'll be absent ahead of time, and then go about your business. If you happen to forget about the meeting, then take responsibility for it and acknowledge it with the meeting facilitator or head, and move on without giving it another thought.

You're running late for work.

Unless you hold a position that requires you to be on time due to a safety issue or another reason, then it's not the end of the world if you're running a little late for work. If you're chronically late, and it's causing you to be stressed at work, then you might want to consider putting measures in place to support you, like getting up 30 minutes earlier or car pooling with someone who's on time. Otherwise, life happens, and there will be times you'll be late to work. If you're less than 15 to 30 minutes late, then roll in as if nothing happened, sit at your desk, and get to work. If you'll be more than 15 to 30 minutes late, then I'd suggest letting your boss know to keep the line of communication open, show respect and responsibility, and minimize any concern your co-workers might have.  

You take an extended lunch.

First, congratulations for choosing to take a lunch. That act a lone can help with managing stress at work. Taking a break from your desk is important to reduce stress and remain focused. If you happen to be meeting an old friend and the time flies, or the restaurant is running behind on orders—both of which might cause you to take a lunch longer than 60 minutes—don't sweat it.

Unless you're in an environment where your every move is monitored, then most people won't notice you're taking a longer-than-normal lunch unless you make a big deal about it. Though not usually necessary, if it makes you feel better, you could always stay a few minutes after your typical quitting time to make up for the extra minutes away at lunch.

You forgot to include an important team member on an email.

If you forget to include someone on an email, then as soon as you realize it, correct it. Mistakes happen, so don't sweat it. The team member has probably been in a similar situation in the past, or will be one day in the future.  

You forgot to include important details or an attachment in an email.

With our fast-paced work environments, we're often doing 20 things at once, unfortunately. That’s one of the main reasons we are stressed at work in the first place. This also means from time to time you might leave out important details in an email communication or forget to include an attachment. Not a huge deal. Resend the email with the attachment and necessary additional details as soon as you realize what you've done. Other people are busy at work too, so chances are, they won't give it another thought, so why should you?

You talked about your weekend or personal life.

I've had moments where I felt like maybe I talked too much or shared too much about my personal life, only to remind myself that people are so busy with their own lives that it's highly unlikely that they gave my story or sharing another thought. After all, it's not all about me!

Assuming you don't share details about sex, drugs, getting arrested, or anything else R-rated, then you're probably fine. I do suggest you use good judgment before sharing too many personal details about your life with your co-workers. At the same time, if you and your manager or co-workers are talking about the weekend on a Monday morning, consider it a good relationship building exercise and don't stress about the discussion afterward.

You gave a co-worker honest and constructive feedback.

Part of your role as an employee is giving and receiving feedback. I prefer when someone is honest with me about his or her perspective, and I also appreciate helpful and constructive feedback.

If you were thoughtful enough to share constructive feedback with a co-worker, don't return to your desk and worry about whether or not the coworker took it the wrong way and formed a bad opinion about you. If you were "compassionately honest," as I like to say, then consider giving yourself credit for speaking up and helping out instead of turning the event into a negative one in your mind.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Stress is already a daily factor in many of our lives, and studies, like the APA 2014 Stress Report, show that stress in the workplace can cause serious health issues, like fatigue, depression, obesity, high blood pressure and more. It's worth it to identify the areas where you can reduce stress, so you can free up that energy for things that truly matter at work—like your work productivity, projects, and presentations. Also, give yourself a break and realize you're not perfect. To put it simply—while also acknowledging it's easier said than done for some—don't sweat the small stuff, as they say!

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