Don’t pull your hair out! Strategies to help you handle workplace stress
According to research over 12 million working days were lost in the UK due to work related stress in 2017, and this is a number that appears to be on the increase. The majority of us will know what it’s like to endure stressful work situations, maybe it’s a tight deadline that you’re not sure you’re going to meet, or a change in management which is causing turmoil in your work environment. Whatever it is, different people manage workplace stress in different ways, however in this article we will provide advice on some tried and tested methods to help you cope.
First of all let’s looks at a few of the most common factors that can contribute to work stress.
- Low salaries or feeling undervalued
- Excessive workloads
- Little to no opportunity for future professional growth or career development
- The work is not engaging or challenging
- Lack of social support and friendship at work
- No control over decisions that directly impact your working life
- Lack of clear management. Conflicting demands or unclear expectations.
It is well documented that work stress can have a profoundly negative impact on your professional life, but it can also spill over into your personal life and seriously affect your mental and physical health. A stressful working environment has been shown to contribute to problems such as headache, stomach ache, sleep disturbances, short temper difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure and weakened immune system. Many people often battle stress by resorting to unhealthy habits such as comfort eating, smoking or alcohol, but there are simple health strategies you can put in place to help better deal with workplace stress.
Track your stressors.
Keep a diary for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Snack on a big bar of chocolate? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
Develop healthy responses.
Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Also make time for hobbies you’re your favourite activities. Whether it’s reading a book, going to a gig or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for the things that bring you pleasure. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.
Take time to recharge.
To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you’re not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on non-work activities for a while.
Learn how to relax.
Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking or enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice and you’ll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.
Talk to your boss.
Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your boss. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. While some parts of the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.
Although there are numerous ways to reduce your workplace stress, there also comes a point when you need to recognise you’re simply not in the right job. If you feel like you’re at a crossroads with your career, the Maxwell Stephens team are always on hand to help. Give us a call on 0207 118 4848 or drop us an email via email@example.com