Most people experience work-related stress from time to time, but for some, the pressures can become overwhelming and your health starts to suffer. Official statistics suggest that the number of people suffering from stress is increasing alarmingly.
Therefore, the week of November 5th to 12th has been newly designated as International Stress Awareness Week. People are being encouraged to look for ways to reduce this debilitating condition and recognise it as a worrying health problem which needs addressing.
More and more people are bringing the condition into the public eye as it affects so many lives. If you are concerned about the effect stress, depression and anxiety have on your life, you may like to read our tips for recognising excessive stress and dealing with it in a healthy way.
Know the Warning Signs of Work-Related Stress
It’s important to recognise the signs that you’re becoming overwhelmed. If work-related stress is beginning to interfere with your life outside the office, you need to take steps to reduce it. Feeling constantly stressed can lead to bigger problems, sometimes seriously affecting your physical and emotional health. Signs and symptoms of excessive workplace stress include:
- Feeling anxious, irritable or depressed
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Sleep problems
- Stomach problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest in work
- Social withdrawal
- Use of alcohol or drugs to cope
If you feel work-related stress building up, try to speak to your manager about areas of work that are troubling you and why you’re finding it difficult to cope. If you’re experiencing several of the above symptoms, it’s also a good idea to speak to your GP, who can assess the seriousness of your stress and decide whether more specialised help is necessary.
Take Care of Yourself
Living a healthy personal life will leave you better equipped to deal with work-related stress. When your own physical and emotional needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress. Try to make sure you’re doing the following:
- Making Health Food Choices: A healthy, nutritious diet can have a surprisingly significant impact on your state of mind and how you cope with the day. Avoid eating too much as this will make you feel lethargic. Instead, eat small but frequent meals to help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar. Low blood sugar can make you feel anxious and irritable.
- Exercising Regularly: Getting plenty of exercise generally lifts your mood and energy levels, helping you to both prevent and relieve stress. This is because exercise releases endorphins – mood-enhancing hormones which will help you cope better with stress. In addition, it relaxes tense muscles and tissues and by doing so, helps to relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches.
- Getting Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep can be both a side effect of stress and a partial cause of it. Not getting enough sleep leaves you more vulnerable to stress because it makes you more easily agitated. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, so try to get into a good bedtime routine which allows you to get this much rest before getting up for work each morning.
- Talking to an Attentive Listener: Stress-causing problems often feel more difficult to deal with when you keep them to yourself, so it’s important to talk about them every now and then. Share your feelings with a trusted friend or relative. Even if that person has no real advice to offer, simply talking about your stress will make it a little easier to cope with, as you’ll feel less isolated by it.
Improve Your Organisation
Stress can often be the result of poor organisation but there are simple steps you can take to rectify this. Here are some key time management and organisation tips:
- Create a Balanced Schedule: Planning your days well will really help you to keep on top of your tasks and responsibilities. When creating a schedule, think carefully about what needs to be done each day but also think about what you can reasonably manage. If you plan your time well, there’ll be time for stress-reducing breaks and your work life won’t have to seep through into your home life.
- Prioritise Tasks: This will help you create a good schedule. Make a list of the tasks you have to do and tackle them in order of importance. You may find it helpful to complete the most difficult tasks first. Then the rest of your day will feel a little more pleasant and you won’t spend the time anxious about the more gruelling duties you’re putting off.
- Try to Leave Early in the Morning: Having to rush to your desk in the morning means you’ll be starting the day stressed before your work has even begun. Try to leave yourself plenty of time to get to work so you can start the day calm and prepared.
- Break Projects into Small Tasks: If a large project seems overwhelming, tackling it all at once is bound to send your stress levels through the roof. Instead, break down the project into smaller tasks, working towards the end goal one step at a time.
- Share Responsibility: If other co-workers can help you with your tasks or even take on some for you, let them. A desire to control and oversee every task you’re involved in can often lead to unnecessary stress. Share responsibilities where appropriate and you’ll feel a lot more relaxed.
Break Bad Habits
There are certain bad habits that make work-related stress much worse than it needs to be. Perhaps you’re always running late, are prone to pessimistic thinking or are too much of a perfectionist to ever be satisfied with the work you do. If you learn to recognise behaviours that are self-defeating, you can take steps to let go of them, letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
While you can’t control everything in your work environment, there are plenty of ways to make your work life feel less out of control. The key is to take responsibility for your own physical and emotional wellbeing, and avoid negative behaviours that will only make things worse.
If you would like more information about managing work-related stress, why not follow this link to the UK based International Stress Management Association – isma.org.uk
We have a wealth of articles you may also find helpful such as one on Mental Health and how talking helps you cope with the pressures you face.