Work is an inevitable part of life. Work stress, on the other hand, shouldn’t be considered par for the course for people who have to make a paycheck. Unfortunately, for many folks, the combination of employment and intolerable stress go hand in hand.
If you can relate to work-induced insomnia, you’re not alone. But, that doesn’t mean it’s okay. In fact, losing sleep isn’t just annoying; it’s unhealthy. If you’re not getting enough Z’s during your nightly slumber sessions, you’re more likely to:
- Be less alert
- Experience memory issues
- Endure relationship stress
- Produce the stress-inducing hormone cortisol
- Have high blood pressure, which can lead to serious complications such as high blood pressure, stroke, or diabetes.
Are these realities scary? Of course they are. That’s why it’s important to get a handle on your work stress immediately so you can start getting the kind of restorative sleep that actually helps eliminate the stress that’s keeping you up at night.
Address the Root Cause
You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s broken. The first step is to analyze your situation so you can identify the root cause.
For example, if it’s a systemic problem related to resources at work, you could ask your boss for extra help or look for ways to increase your efficiency. If you find yourself saying, “There’s got to be a better way to do this,” it’s probably true. You can usually resolve systemic problems by finding tools that are designed to eliminate the sources of extra work.
On the other hand, people problems (difficult relationships at work) can be a little tougher to address. If your anxiety stems from stressors of the human kind, see what steps you can take personally to attack the problem.
Solutions to Consider
- Talk to your boss (unless he or she is the problem), in which case you might seek the input of HR or another neutral party
- Take a look at your own time management to see what improvements you can make in your own workflow, including potentially renegotiating deadlines
- Ask a mentor for advice
- Find someone who doesn’t seem to be affected by the stress at work and study what they’re doing – do they manage their workload differently? Deal with the annoying boss or coworker differently?
- Investigate and implement efficiency tools so that those tiny but frustrating tasks don’t pile up into a larger source of stress for you
- Incorporate mindfulness and stress management at work and outside of regular work hours
The Role of Mindfulness and Stress Management
When work is stressful, it’s important to attend to the triggers that cause you to feel overloaded so you can find ways to mitigate the anxiety. Studies show that people who participate in meditation, for example, are more able to recover from workplace negativity, so they don’t get stuck rethinking and overthinking the things that worry them about work. In other words, meditation helps put insomnia in its place.
During the Workday
Find ways to walk away from your work. Brief walks around the building or parking lot can help refocus your mind and eliminate negative energy. Not to mention, it’s important to get out of your chair every so often to get your blood flowing.
Breathing exercises are a great way to clear your head and bring your blood pressure back to a regulated level if you’re super stressed. Also, be kind to your calendar; don’t schedule yourself back-to-back so you have some time to breathe between meetings.
After Work and During the Weekends
If you’re tossing and turning at night, take better care of yourself outside of work. Mindful meditation immediately after work and just before you head to bed can help get those negative thoughts out of your mind before you find yourself staring at the ceiling. Therapy and journaling can be great ways to get your worries out of your head so they don’t get stuck on a spin cycle that keeps you from sleeping. Proper diet and exercise are also important in helping maintain overall mental health (which includes your ability to sleep correctly).
It’s okay to ask for help at home, too. In fact, that’s exactly what you should be doing if your ordinary household tasks are sending you over the edge when your head hits the pillow.
Most important, however? Don’t bring work home with you, if you can avoid it. It’s important to resist the temptation to check work email, so put your phone on do-not-disturb mode and chuck it in a drawer if you have to. Don’t ruminate on work problems at home.
Overwhelming work stress can easily turn into at-home stress that keeps you up all night. It’s important to understand that not only is this not normal—it’s not healthy. By getting to the root cause and identifying solutions that help you keep the stress away you’ll be on your way to better nightly slumbers and happier workdays.