When you know a high-stress event is coming up, it’s natural to stress yourself out before it even happens. That anticipation can cause you to spiral down a rabbit hole of “what ifs,” and those thoughts can feel both mentally and emotionally taxing. Researchers say this common pattern is called “meta-stress,” and it happens when you stress in advance about something that hasn’t even taken place yet. No one wants to deal with meta-stress, which is why we have three strategies to offer you that will help you avoid potential stressors before they get the best of you.
First strategy: work in a way that works best for you. When you’re fighting against your body’s natural working hours, any small hiccup can feel distressing, and you end up feeling tired, unproductive and overwhelmed. That’s why experts say it can be helpful to understand your internal rhythm to manage stress on a broader scale. To figure out what works best for you, try out different schedules. If you know you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to wake up extra early. Your physiological cue is the perfect cue: listen to it and it will help you work stress-free.
Second strategy: set boundaries. While it’s not always possible to avoid those stressors entirely, setting boundaries with your work and your devices can help you mitigate some of those anxious feelings. Studies have shown that the mere expectation of checking work email after hours can be stressful on workers, and anticipating those emails before they come can hinder our time outside of the office. By making a conscious effort to leave work at work, you can embrace a healthier work-life integration and feel better about powering off at the end of the day.
Third strategy: keep communication clear. Stress is often a byproduct of communication errors, and studies show that prioritizing clear, direct interactions with others can help you avoid miscommunications that can take a toll on your mental well-being. For example, if you know that you have a pending deadline and feel overwhelmed by your workload, communicating that concern — clearly, in advance of that deadline, and with a plan of action — to your manager can save you from stress down the line.