Top Tips to Overcome Work-Related Stress
Hitesh Dodhia, Superintendent Pharmacist at PharmacyOutlet.co.uk, offers his top tips for managing work-related stress.
April being Stress Awareness Month gives us all an opportunity to evaluate how stress affects our lives. While stress is typically a natural reaction to high-pressure situations, the symptoms can have serious consequences on your emotional, physical and mental health if left untreated.
With Brits spending on average 43.8 hours a week in the workplace, stress can commonly be instigated in response to mounting pressure from the office, be it due to tight deadlines or a competitive work environment. A survey recently revealed that almost six in 10 employees feel stressed because of their work. This not only has an impact on an employee’s wellbeing, it can also undermine workplace relations and have a significant impact on general productivity.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Minor symptoms such as grinding teeth, muscle tension and headaches are a clear indication of stress, and if not tackled from the onset, can turn into more serious problems such as depression and anxiety. Indeed, stress can easily snowball when prolonged and can contribute to long-term health problems such as high-blood pressure and even memory loss.
There are, however, short-term benefits to stress when the body enters “fight or flight” mode. By keeping you alert and aware of your physical surroundings, positive stress (or eustress) focuses your mind and can be used to positively address a high-pressure situation, such as a job interview or business pitch.
How does stress affect businesses?
With 12.5 million working days lost last year due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, it is clear how these issues can have a significant impact on business productivity. This affects not only employees but also people in senior leadership positions. In fact, a recent study found that a third of company owners completely lose motivation to continue running their business due to stress once a year.
So, what can be done?
To help business leaders and employees stop stress from snowballing out of control, here are some useful pieces of advice:
1. Understand the root causes of stress
Without properly assessing where the feelings of stress are coming from, staff can often feel helpless and under constant pressure to perform. This also will cause the body to release unstable levels of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline – which in high doses causes high blood pressure, muscle weakness and mood swings.
Therefore, the first response for anyone feeling overwhelmed at work is to find out why they are feeling that way. Are there too many tasks for you to get through? Is your boss setting unrealistic targets? Or is the company culture too adversarial? These are useful questions to ask to help identify where the root causes of work-related stress lies.
An easy way to answer these questions is to keep a journal of your day-to-day life. This will allow you to identify the causes of office stresses, and then successfully build strategies around the root cause.
2. Knowing your limits
Regardless of what position you hold within a company, it is important to know your limits. This is especially true for employees who often feel obligated to say “yes” to everything, in fear of not getting a promotion or not being liked. But by saying “yes” to all requests, employees will face the adverse effect of overworking – meaning that work is rushed and often not produced to the required standard.
Employers are also in danger of overworking. Often feeling protective of their business, C-level personnel can fall into the trap of holding onto too many responsibilities. Either from not trusting new recruits or through a desire to achieve a particular vision, company leaders can divert time away from focusing on growing the business to instead becoming absorbed in day-to-day admin. Employers, therefore, need to make sure that they don’t overwork themselves – resulting in stress and a potential lack of growth for the business, which in turn can exacerbate existing anxieties.
3. Take breaks and relax outside of work
It may seem counterproductive but taking breaks and relaxing between tasks can help reduce stress and increases productivity. With a survey last year finding that the average British attention span is 13 minutes long, working without breaks can result in higher levels of stress, and also cause creative parts of cognitive processes to shut off.
Sensible breaks after completing a task are, therefore, necessary to keep our brain focused. Otherwise, resources will be depleted, and employees will find their propensity to make easily avoidable mistakes unnecessarily high.
4. Putting things in perspective
Putting work situations in perspective can help alleviate pressure in a job. Especially when dealing with a hostile work environment, cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness techniques can change how you think about a stressful situation. Rather than getting bogged down by office politics, these techniques can help change how you think about a situation, allowing you to resolve stressful situations.
5. Keeping a tidy desk and sitting upright
It might seem simple, but it has been proven that people can lower stress levels by keeping their workspace tidy. Particularly important for those with desk-based jobs, keeping the area where you do your work clean and organised can make an immediate difference. Another tip: having a good posture also helps – rather than slumping or slouching, employees ought to sit more upright as it has been shown to encourage a more positive mentality.
6. Other lifestyle changes
Other good pieces of advice include exercising more, which helps relieve stress; avoiding stimulants such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, which can exacerbate stress-related issues; and making sure you get plenty of sleep.
Despite stress being a common experience at work, these tips should help ensure feelings of anxiety do not get out of control. However, if you still experience long-term stress even after using these tips then either talk to your HR department or a medical professional to receive further advice.