11 Steps to a Less Stressful Work-life
Every job can be stressful at times, even if you enjoy what you do. If you don’t know how to handle the stress your workplace throws at you in the right way, it can make you ill.
It’s important to tackle the factors causing stress levels right away because too much pressure can lead to serious health issues, which can include cardiovascular disease, haemorrhagic strokes, and possibly even making your body more vulnerable to cancer.
How does Stress Affect Us?
People react to stress in different ways, so the first step is to look at ourselves and understand how it affects us, and subsequently recognise when we become stressed.
You may find yourself making more mistakes than usual or having problems making straightforward decisions. (memory problems, poor judgement, unable to concentrate)
You may arrive late, find it difficult to meet deadlines, skip lunch, or not join in with the office chat. (loss of sense of humour, demotivation, bad habits like excessive alcohol or cigarette intake, isolation, too little or too much sleep)
If you find yourself sensitive to criticism, or experience a dramatic loss of confidence, these are strong indicators that you are becoming overwhelmed with stress. (frustration, aggression, depression, mood swings, irritability)
Some people experience what seems like a constant cold as well as fatigue, but it can also show in a change of appetite, lack of effort with your appearance, and uncontrollable sweating. (teeth grinding, fast heartbeat, chest or abdominal pain, aches and pains, headaches and migraines)
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
Managing Stress in the Workplace
Make a checklist of things to do and order them by importance. Deal with things one at a time and if there’s something you’re not keen on, do that thing straight away – don’t put it off.
If you are in a position to delegate work to others, it’s a good idea to do so.
Rewarding yourself with short but regular breaks (about five minutes every hour or so) will optimise productivity and help you concentrate on the tasks in hand. Take a stroll around the office, or even offer to do the tea round.
Mess equals stress. Our stress levels increase purely by looking at the sight of a messy desk, but mess can also aggravate our colleagues. It’s important to stay on top of clutter on your desk or workspace so it doesn’t accumulate over time and become another problem to deal with. Giving yourself something positive to look at, like photos of loved ones, can help calm you down and put a smile on your face.
Restrict your caffeine intake to one or two cups of coffee a day or, even better, drink decaf. Caffeine increases your body’s level of cortisol (otherwise known as the stress hormone) as well as causing a disturbance in sleep patterns.
Poorly positioned monitors, bright artificial lighting and improperly adjusted chairs result in pain and discomfort, which consequently leads to stress and other serious health problems. Make sure you are content in your workspace, maintaining a good posture with your feet flat on the floor. If you feel like the conditions aren’t optimised for your comfort then we suggest bringing it up with your manager or contacting your company’s HR department.
There is a strong connection between exercise and stress relief, and it helps to do some daily exercises at your desk. Exercise will increase your overall health and sense of wellbeing as it causes the brain to produce endorphins (your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters). Moving relieves tension in your body, and it also allows you to have a little break from your work.
Some stress is unavoidable, so it’s important that we are composed in the way we react to stressful situations because a lot of our stress comes from feeling a loss of control. A few minutes of deep breathing should help clear your head and allow you to take a step back from the situation so that you can process the events and react accordingly instead of jumping to conclusions. This may also prevent unwanted drama between you and your colleagues. Some people find that anxiety rings help them to step back from a stressful situation and give themselves time to think.
Creating a boundary between your work and home life is imperative for a healthy balanced lifestyle. It is easy to feel the pressure all day every day but, to lessen the stress of work responsibilities, make a rule not answer the phone during dinner time with your family, or not looking at your emails throughout the evening. This will reduce the work-life conflict and allow you to enjoy the time you spend with your partner or family.
If you are feeling stressed and uninspired, listening to music is a good way to calm your mood and make you more productive. It’s important that it’s on low volume, and it helps if the music doesn’t have lyrics that you know. Nevertheless, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people find music distracting, so you need to be mindful of what’s right for you.
The trouble with writer’s block is it happens to everybody. If you are stuck for ideas, or can’t finish the task you’re doing because of a lack of inspiration, take a bit of time to walk around the office or your building grounds. Getting fresh air will help give you a fresh outlook on your task. If it’s still proving difficult, move on to something else and come back to it when you are feeling most productive.
Talk to Someone
Whether it’s a trusted colleague, friend, or family member, talk to someone about how you are feeling; don’t suppress it. If you feel your stress is putting your health at risk, then visit your GP and they will support you in the relevant ways.
Alternatively, have a conversation with your supervisor and come up with an effective plan to manage the stressors of the work environment.
About the Author
Beth Meakin is a Digital Marketing Executive for Number1, helping businesses with search and content marketing. She specialises in SEO and design work for clients to deliver real commercial gain.