This life. It’s bittersweet, hey? As humans, we spend the majority of it working, thinking about working then sleeping off the toils of it, at which point we dream about working. Or, as Richard Ashcroft more succinctly put it, ‘you’re a slave to money, then you die’. As certain as death and taxes, it seems, is work, so we might as well try and enjoy it. But all too many of us are, at one time or another, susceptible to work-related stress, regardless of how fulfilling or rewarding our jobs may be. If we’re to make the most of our short time on the planet, then it’s important to be equipped with the right tools to deal with that stress. We’re here to help, with these; our 5 IDEAL ways to cope with stress at work.
RECOGNISE THE CAUSES
A dangerous assumption exists within the workplace, that stress is normal, perhaps even beneficial to productivity, and so warning signs are ignored, or worse, cultivated. But in the long run, this can be incredibly detrimental to our health and wellbeing, as well as the success of the business. It’s vital, then, to recognise the signs. Here are just a few of the key causes to be aware of:
- Poor relationships with superiors and colleagues
- Discrimination and harassment
- Few or no promotional opportunities
- Lack of office equipment and proper resources
- Poor working conditions
- Over-supervision and a lack of autonomy
- Job insecurity
- Sudden change in job description and organisational changes
- Tight deadlines, a heavy workload and long working hours
AND RECORD THEM
It sounds simple on paper, and as such, it should be on paper. Being able to identify which situations at work cause undue stress is the first step in reducing it. Recording them is the next. So, keep a workday journal of times when you felt particularly under pressure, what caused it, and whether you were able to resolve it. Note down your feelings, thoughts and any information about the situation, including who else was involved, the physical setting and the circumstances. Keep track of your own reaction as well; did you get angry and raise your voice? Retreat from the situation and go for a walk? Head to the canteen for a quick snack? By keeping a journal, you’ll be able to identify triggers and the best ways to avoid them.
KNOW THE PHYSICAL SIGNS OF STRESS
After cause comes effect, and since stress is a medically recognised issue, it can actually manifest itself physically. The danger is that you assume this to be another problem, and ignore or treat it erroneously. By being aware of the physical signs of stress, it can be easier to nip it in the bud. Here are some of the key ones:
- Dermatological disorders (breakouts and general skin problems)
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Bleeding gums
- Hair loss
- Jaw pain
- Upset stomach (constipation or diarrhoea)
- Sleeping difficulties or Insomnia
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss
- Muscular tension
- High blood pressure
It’s important to be conscious of these signs of work stress in order to properly manage them. But this shouldn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the employee. Crucial to public health is for workplaces to take some of the responsibility for their employees’ well-being. Bosses and managers should be able to notice changes in their employees’ behaviour which could indicate signs of workplace stress, and offer assistance accordingly.
FOLLOW A MENTAL HEALTH REGIME
Just as you wouldn’t expect to be in top physical condition without ever hitting the treadmill or lifting a few weights, so you shouldn’t assume good mental health will happen simply by chance. Instead, it’s prudent to get proactive with your wellbeing. Two of the keys ways to give your mind a well needed workout are through yoga and mindful meditation. Something as simple as a few stretches when you wake up and a small session to help you wind down at the end of the day can make a huge difference. Ditto a short meditation each day. We’ve written more about a manageable, beneficial, everyday mental health regime over here. Check it out.
The shrinking of the world had led to a massive rise in expectations regarding when and where we should be working. Evenings, weekends, even when we’re on holiday; nothing is off limits anymore in terms of when you should be available and ‘on’. But it’s vital that you set boundaries, both for yourself and for your colleagues and bosses. Everybody wins when you’re happy, content and productive, so there really is no reason not to.
This could be practically applied by setting a simple a rule to not answer the phone during dinner or when out with friends, or not allowing yourself to check emails at the weekend. Everyone will have different opinions when it comes to blending office and home life but drawing a few red lines in the sand will prevent work-life conflict and the stresses that come with it.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SEEK SUPPORT
There’s a lot of support out there for both business owners and employees who are suffering from stress, such as through online networks, support groups and forums. Stress is not something which can simply be ignored, and in most cases need proper, thorough treatment. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their staff from stress at work, so make sure your voice is heard if you’re suffering. And if you’re not suffering yourself, then think about lending a hand to those who are, by volunteering or donating. The mental health charity Mind have plenty of useful resources here for those wishing to get educated and help.