Life Work

These 6 Tips Will Help You Handle New Job Stress Like a Pro

April 18, 2018
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Landing a new job can be exciting. You may be getting a pay increase, doing work that more closely aligns with your interests or working in an office closer to your home. Whatever your reasons for moving on from your current role, starting something new can also be stressful. 

These tips from Brenna Renn, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at University of Washington, can help you move through the transition with more ease.

Start with a graceful exit

Even if you’ve thought about getting out of your current company for years or your new gig is your dream job, giving your boss notice is still going to feel stressful. After all, it’s like a professional breakup.

Instead of focusing on the fear of having a difficult conversation, it can be helpful to focus on why you’re in this situation in the first place. 

“Does your new job better align with your strengths and skills, or offer benefits that are important in your life? You don’t need to tell your boss about these details, but it can help to remind yourself why this is an important and meaningful transition,” says Renn.

It can also be helpful to write down notes on anything you want to say to your boss or questions you have, so they don’t slip your mind in the stress of the moment. And if you feel stressed right before the meeting, try taking a few deep breaths to center yourself and keep your mind focused on the task at hand.

Don’t forget about self-care

Healthy routines are often the first things to get pushed aside during big life changes. But this is the time when regular exercise, healthy eating and sleep are crucial for keeping your body and mind in balance.

“When our bodies are rested and taken care of, we’re less likely to get overwhelmed,” says Renn.

Be social

Being the new kid can feel awkward, especially for introverts. But it’s important to challenge yourself to build a social network at work. Even if the friendships don’t extend beyond office hours, having social support can make work more enjoyable and help you assimilate into office culture.

If you’re uncomfortable meeting new people, start small. For example, rather than holing up at your desk during lunch, see if there is a group that eats together that you can join; it might be less intimating than approaching someone eating alone or with a friend.

“And remember, most people have been in a similar position at one point or another,” says Renn. “As nerve-racking as it can be, smiling and introducing yourself to a coworker can go a long way. Often other people are just as shy or reserved as we are, and they often warm up when we make a first move.”

Understand expectations early

When you’re just getting to know the people and culture of an organization, it can be tough to sort out expectations. If your boss isn’t straightforward about their working style or how performance is reviewed, set up a meeting to get on the same page. 

“Trying to read your boss’s mind and live up to unspoken expectations can be extremely stressful, since there is no surefire way to tell when you are on track,” says Renn. “Rather, you can take some control of your stress by being proactive.”

Embrace the challenge

Often, the difference between spending your first month at a new job totally stressed and enjoying the ride is how much control you feel like you have over your situation. A longer commute might be stressing you out, but you can gain some control of the situation by listening to an engaging podcast or carpooling with a friend instead of listening to the traffic report or fighting traffic alone. 

“Even if someone can’t change the entire situation, they usually have some control over an aspect of the situation. Overall, people who view changes as challenges or opportunities tend to feel more positively than those who see the change as a stressful or uncontrollable event,” says Renn.

Ask for help if the adjustment feels overwhelming

There’s a difference between new job stress and chronic stress.

“It’s normal for your sleep to be interrupted before a big event, such as your first day on the job. This is why bolstering self-care during these transitions is so important,” says Renn. “However, I would also expect this to level off pretty quickly.”

Whether your stressor is work or something else, if you notice that your difficulty with adjustment seems to be lingering, or if it spills over into your sleep, appetite, or general well-being, consider talking with your primary care provider about your reaction and possible avenues for support and treatment.