Whether you love what you do or view your work as a necessary evil, you face work-related stress. How you manage and respond to that stress determines how it affects your work, health, and life. Unfortunately, only 37 percent of Americans report they’re doing a good job of managing stress and a similar number report experiencing chronic workplace stress.

Some workplace stress is to be expected. When a deadline is approaching, an important meeting is on the calendar, or layoffs are on the horizon, it’s normal to feel anxious about work. But if you dread going to work in the morning and feel stress long after you’ve left in the evening, your stress is a serious problem.

Stress doesn’t only affect your enjoyment of life in the day-to-day. Chronic stress weakens your immune system, raises your blood pressure, and increases your risk of developing serious health problems including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Stress can impact your appetite, sleep, and digestion and make it difficult to connect with family and friends.

Despite how common workplace stress is, the average worker isn’t well-equipped to manage it. Most working Americans say their workplace doesn’t provide enough resources to help them manage job stress and longer hours leave little time for leisure outside of work. However, it’s essential that employees carve out downtime even if it’s not promoted by the corporate culture. Without healthy outlets for stress including hobbies, exercise, and socializing with friends and family, workers run the risk of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol. Substances aren’t only ineffective at reducing stress, but they also can compound its effects.

Healthy hobbies aren’t enough to regulate stress. Employees also need to build resilience so their tension passes rather than hanging around and developing into chronic stress. The CDC emphasizes the importance of taking care of one’s physical health to manage stress. Stress is a physiological response, and a healthy body fueled by proper nutrition, fitness, and sleep is best equipped to manage it. While it’s tempting to skip meals and sacrifice sleep in order to accomplish more at work, prioritizing your health is better for your personal and professional success long-term.

Of course, many workers know this. Life can get in the way of implementing effective stress management. If you’re struggling to achieve balance in the workplace, follow these three practical tips for managing workplace stress:

  • Watch the clock: No, this doesn’t mean stare at the clock as it slowly ticks toward the end of the workday. Rather, you can reduce workplace stress by being mindful of time management at work. If too much time is spent chatting with coworkers, answering emails, or navigating office politics, you’ll always feel one step behind in your work. Create a routine for your workdays and include short breaks that give your eyes and legs a rest from sitting at a desk.
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  • Set boundaries: Boundaries keep your job from creeping into your evenings, weekends and phone inbox. It’s easiest to set boundaries when first starting a job, so make clear from the start that while you’ll give 100 percent at work, after hours is your time. If it’s too late for that, try Fast Company’s diplomatic scripts for establishing new boundaries. If the boss pushes back, the company culture probably isn’t the right fit.
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  • Take time off: There’s no virtue in accruing unused vacation time. Paid time off is part of the compensation package offered to you, not a gift from your boss, so take advantage of it. That doesn’t mean you should disappear on a whim, but a vacation taken with plenty of notice is nothing to feel guilty about.

Stress in itself isn’t a bad thing. Stress is an essential survival mechanism, a natural response to threats. But when a workplace puts your stress response into overdrive, it can have real consequences for your job performance, health and overall quality of life. And no matter how important your career is to you, your health and happiness should always come first.

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GUEST Contributor:A special Thank you to Julie Morris, Life, and Career Coach
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