Stress is everywhere – because stressors are everywhere. One of the most stressful places in an average person’s life is the workplace, not surprisingly. Every urgent email, phone call, meeting, deadline, and demand from your boss or coworker just adds to the mountain of anxieties you’ve been building since the minute you arrived on the scene, maybe even sooner.

While we can’t control all of our environmental factors, we can control how we process and respond to them. That is why the key to managing workplace stress is not found within your ability to control everything and everyone around you, but it’s found in your inner power to take control of yourself. The truth is that you can eliminate the majority of your stress in most workplace scenarios by following these four simple pieces of advice.

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1. Get a hold on your schedule to reduce stress. The first step to gaining control of your stress levels is solidifying whatever it is you have to do in a day. When you’re constantly guessing around at how much time you have in between activities, or perhaps when those activities even are, you won’t be getting anywhere fast except “behind.” The more you have to guess at whether or not you can finish something, the less likely you are to start anything at all. So what do you do? Write out your schedule in something that’s portable and easily accessible so you’ll know exactly how to map out the rest of your day.

2. Control your personal environment to reduce stress. If your workspace is a mess, chances are that your mind is too. It’s okay to be busy – everyone has moments where they don’t have time to walk to the office trash can or re-organize their bookshelf – but keeping your desk area clutter free (or close to it) is crucial for your concentration. If you’re one of those people who is pressed for time from the minute you walk in to your last minute of overtime, then you may want to set up an office cleaning time at the end of every week, when most of the work is done. Whatever works for you – just stay organized!

3. Reduce Stress by saying “no.” This is a hard lesson for many people. Nobody enjoys saying “no.”
But when you let your fear of this two letter word get the best of you, you end up with extra baggage and obligations that were none of your responsibility to begin with. Telling a co-worker “no” when he or she asks you to share the load of a project may seem callous at first, but in reality, you have your own work to concern yourself with. A good rule of thumb for the office is to refrain from taking on additional tasks until the ones that were assigned to you are completed. Even then, it’s entirely your call as to whether or not you choose to do extra. Remember, there’s difference between what you can do and what you need to do.

4. Don’t be afraid to (tactfully) speak your mind. This is another point of internal conflict for many people, especially in formal or professional settings like the workplace. You never want to intentionally offend anyone, of course, but there sometimes comes a point where the ability to voice your concerns is more important than any potential friction you may cause in doing so. Most of the time, however, people are generally open and grateful for receiving honest opinions and even constructive criticism, and you’ll be much better off having concerns addressed than if you let them sit and wreak havoc.