How to stop stress at work
Work-related stress is something that the majority of people will experience at some time or another, and to a certain extent, we expect our jobs to stress us out on the odd occasion. However, our working culture is changing in ways that can make this pressure worse, with longer hours, fewer staff, increased workloads and lower pay becoming the norm. Whether you are on a zero hour contract and worried that you can’t turn down shifts as you may not be offered anymore, burdened with more responsibility than you can cope with, or unofficially expected to be the office for 11 hours a day, your professional life can take its toll on your mental wellbeing.
If you are feeling this way, you aren’t alone. People are increasingly finding that the pressure of work is so intense that it is making them ill, with The Health and Safety Executive reporting that 40% of work-related illnesses were down to unsustainable stress levels. But if you can’t quit your job, what can you do to stop stress from overwhelming you at work?
Look into Corporate Wellbeing
Corporate wellbeing is no substitute for fair breaks, reasonable working hours and competent management, but if you are feeling stressed at work corporate wellbeing techniques can go a long way in making you feel better. The foremost of these is meditation, which can be easily practised in the workplace. You can use meditation to handle anxiety, up your productivity and reduce stress – just eight weeks of regular meditation has been shown in brain scans to physically change the makeup of your mind and make you less prone to feeling stressed out.
Other ways you can bring wellbeing into your working life is making sure you take breaks, and that you get away from your work desk or station during them. Going on a short walk, or picking up a book, gives you the distance you need when work is threatening to overwhelm you. Also making time to form good relationships at work and not being embarrassed to talk through your issues with sympathetic colleagues (or even just phoning up a friend and letting off steam) will help you cope.
Push Yourself to Say No
If you are constantly exhausted and overwhelmed at work, the likelihood is that you’ve taken on too much. It can be difficult to express ourselves when talking to those in positions of authority, but if your boss wants you to complete a task and experience tells you it will put too much on your plate, make sure you communicate this. If they insist, then the responsibility is on them to justify why the task isn’t complete satisfactorily rather than you, as they were forewarned and made their decision. Stand firm, and don’t take responsibility for tasks you don’t have the time or resources to complete.
This extends to your personal life. If you know that you’ve got a particularly demanding day at work lined up, make sure you turn down any social engagements that could add pressure to your day, and let yourself off any chores or life admin. Also, no work is worth missing sleep over (except on very, very rare occasions) and sleeplessness will just drag you down further, so staying up regularly to get work finished is a bad idea – leave it to the morning.
Re-Prioritise and Switch Off
If you are conscientious and prone to perfectionism, you can make your working life a bigger priority than it needs to be. It can be difficult if it’s not in your nature, but occasionally shrugging your shoulders and thinking “never mind” when something doesn’t go to plan can do wonders for your state of mind. Recognise the things at work that are out of your control, and make a conscious effort to dismiss them – they aren’t something you need to worry about. Prioritize your most important tasks and let the small things go, sorting them out as and when everything else is done.
Perhaps most importantly, make sure that you do truly switch off. Getting home and reading your work emails may not feel like a bad thing, but it keeps work on your mind even if you aren’t stressing about it at that moment. Also, while everyone has a bit of a moan about work to loved ones now and then, keep this to a time limit once you’re home. Talking about work problems for hours on end will stop you from enjoying your free time, and rather than feeling better for getting things off your chest, you could find yourself obsessing over work well into the evening.
No job is worth your health, no matter how far you’re climbing the career ladder or how much you need the money. Furthermore, stress negatively affects your work performance and can even lead to burnout, which makes it difficult to work at all. Putting yourself first will not only improve your wellbeing, but it could also make you happier and more productive in your career as well.
This piece was written by Holly Ashby, a writer who’s interested in stress and its impact on health and wellbeing. She currently works for Will Williams Meditation, a meditation centre in London who help people combat stress using meditation.