How to beat stress at work for better wellbeing
The recession may thankfully be over, but many people will still be feeling its after-effects in terms of workplace stress. Perhaps your office lost several members of staff and you're now sharing their work between the rest of you, or maybe you had your department budget cut and are now struggling on with fewer resources.
Either way, if you recognise your situation in this, you're not alone. A recent poll of 2,000 Brits by Tilda found that half currently feel as though their work-life balance is uneven, while four in ten admitted they couldn't describe themselves as happy.
A third reported being consumed by worries about work from the minute they wake up onwards and more than half said their stress levels have gone up even in the past year.
In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, digital distraction expert Frances Booth partly attributed this to our constant connectivity to smartphones and similar devices, saying they are making people up to 30 per cent more stressed than was the case before their invention.
The damage stress can cause
However, while we might make light of stress and wear it as something of a badge of honour, it could be doing serious damage to our health. Indeed, according to the Labour Force Survey, stress accounted for 40 per cent of all work-related illness in 2011-12, requiring an average of 24 days off.
It can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety, as well as causing heart attacks.
Even a small amount can damage productivity and motivation, leading to lack of commitment, conflict in the office and higher staff turnover.
While it's obviously impossible to completely eliminate stress from most jobs – in fact, a lot would be pretty boring without some form of urgency now and again – how can we reduce it to levels that can be coped with and won't damage our physical and mental wellbeing?
What can be done?
The first thing to do is accept that you are experiencing harmful levels of stress. Many people bury their heads in the sand and tell themselves things will get better if they leave them alone, but this often isn't the case and you may need to make some changes.
Once you've done this, you can look for the root cause of your problems and see if you can make any changes to rectify them. Could you speak in confidence to your line manager and see if any work could be delegated elsewhere, or better organise yourself so you're not always working to tight deadlines?
It may be time to bite the bullet here and admit that you're not in the right job if you feel as though nothing can be done. If this is the case, then looking around with a view to moving on could be beneficial – try chatting to one of our psychic careers experts for assistance if you need it.
Also, don't be tempted to take on too much. It can be hard to say no when a boss asks you to do something, but accepting more work than you can handle isn't beneficial for anyone. You don't have to refuse point blank and have an argument about it; just politely say you're quite busy at present but can fit it in once you've finished your current projects. You won't get a telling off for being honest!
Organising, delegating and prioritising can make a real difference to how on top of things – or not – you feel and you might be surprised about the feeling of control it gives you, allowing you a release from problematic stress.
Long-term tips for better wellbeing
Following these tips should help to alleviate some of the stress you're feeling right now, but it's important to manage it in the long run to prevent it mounting up again. This is easy to do if you keep close tabs on your mental wellbeing and take steps to soothe your mind.
For example, try getting up five minutes earlier than usual and jotting down a to-do list so you can focus on what you really have to do. This can also be done at the end of the day before you leave the office so you've got a plan for the next morning and aren't worried about workloads mounting up.
Try counting your blessings too, as it's all too easy to focus on the negative things that happen and forget the little positives that can really cheer you up. Jot down something that made you happy each night before you go to sleep and it should help you feel much more uplifted.
Another good tip is to always make time for a lunch break. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy recently found that one in five employees now works right through this supposed rest time, while half of those who did paused for breath still remained at their desks.
This could actually lower productivity and lead to health problems, so break the habit starting now. Eat a healthy lunch such as a tuna salad, drink plenty of water and then go a walk if possible. Even a stroll around town if you work in a city office block can help you gain perspective, although getting into a green space is preferable if you can.
Don't be tempted to check your phone as you wander around either – instead, really connect with what's around you. When you get back, you should find that the combination of the mental pause, the exercise and the healthy food has provided you with the energy boost you need to get through the afternoon.
Give it a try and see if you can make your job more pleasurable and less stressful.