7 ways to cope with a stressful day at the office

29th April, 2016

Being a business owner is great. Having control of your own destiny, so to speak, is very satisfying. But we all have tough days, challenging days, and days where almost nothing seems to go the way you want it to.

In work, just as in life, statistically some days will inevitably be better than others. So how to cope with the genuinely awful or stressful days?

Here are seven ways in which you might look to seize the initiative.

1. Make a short to-do list – and smash it

When you are stressed, molehills can begin to seem like mountains, and big tasks can seemingly become more intimidating, demoralising, or even depressing. On the down days, start out by going a little easier on yourself.

Make a short to-do list, get something small done, and physically tick it off your list. Consider taking on some simple tasks, such as de-cluttering your desk, backing up key documents, filing, or clearing out old emails.

Why? Because accomplishing something small and achievable helps to interrupt the negative pattern and can enable you to regain a sense of control.

Once you have been able to take a step back, write out a short list of what is causing you to feel pressured. Acknowledge the factors, but just for today, don’t focus on them unduly.

2. Talk it out

For small business owners it can be easy to wallow in self-pity when things are not going according to plan. Human interaction and the simple act of talking can help to break your thought processes in a beneficial manner. Try to keep the conversation upbeat rather than bemoaning or cataloguing your complaints.

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance where required. We cannot all be masters of everything (and nor should we try to be), so if you have a goal that seems insurmountable, consider how you can get the right person to tackle the right task.

3. Keep things in perspective

At times we are all guilty to some extent of catastrophising or taking things to heart. This emotion may come from a good place, since in small business you naturally want to perform to the best of your ability. However, it helps to accept that every day will not be a fantastic day.

Will these issues seem as important a week, a month, or a year from now?

Consider instead what is going right for you, and focus on that for a while. Alternatively, try to focus on others instead of yourself. A little perspective sometimes helps.

4. Go for a wander

If you are feeling overwhelmed, turn off your messages and email for a while, and take yourself out of the moment.

Different approaches suit different people. Some go for a walk around the block, others to the bakery for something sweet, and others might find a park or garden and read the paper.

On truly down days I used to enjoy a wander around the Botanical Gardens, which never failed to cheer me up. Think of ways in which you can change your mood or thought patterns constructively.

Physical exercise can also be an effective mood-breaker and can help to get the blood pumping in a beneficial way. Don’t forget to recharge and refuel appropriately, as wearing yourself out will only exhaust productivity rather than improve it.

5. Find your peak productivity

One of the beautiful things about humanity is that we are all built differently.

As a regular member of the ‘5am club’ I do my best work in the early mornings, yet my younger brother likes to work in the hours leading up to midnight. What is the most productive time of day for you in terms of achieving results? Can you adjust your working day accordingly?

6. Treat yourself…or others

Treat yourself, but in an affirming fashion (ideally not just a sugar hit).

I have always enjoyed a short muse in the library; some like a 20-minute massage; or for others music is another great way to change your mood.

Employees who work in large, open-plan offices rarely have as many options, but if you are self-employed you may have greater control over making positive changes to your work environment.

Alternatively, treat others! The simple act of doing a good deed for somebody else can help to lighten your mood. Write down a list of at least half a dozen empowering ways in which you can regain control and change your mood, and resolve to use them to interrupt the flow next time you feel that things may be headed in a similar direction!

7. Take an early day

Even on the days where things seem to be going badly, your challenges, frustrations and problems are unlikely to be terminal. Tomorrow is a new day. Get some good rest and sleep, as things rarely seem as bad in the morning!


Want more? Find out how to prevent yourself from hating your business.