Stress at work can come from a number of sources. As you get older, the longer hours can start to weigh heavy on you and cause physical, as well as mental, tension.
Even if you’ve decided to cut back on your hours in an attempt to shift your work-life balance, it could be that you’re being asked to do too much work or the work you’re being asked to do is just too difficult.
It might not be to do with the work at all – you might have issues with your colleagues or boss. Problems with people in the office can make you stressed, even if you love your job.
But there are ways to handle these pressures. Learn how to deal with stress at work with our 7 simple tips
1. Become aware of your stress
By becoming aware of your stress and admitting to yourself that it’s an issue, you’ve won half the battle. But it’s not just about recognising that you have a problem but also recognising the level of the problem and how it’s affecting your life.
Try making a few notes when you’re stressed about how it makes you feel, what it’s doing to your body and how it’s affecting your day-to-day life. For example, it could be: 10am – felt like I couldn’t cope. Heart beating like crazy. Couldn’t concentrate on simple problems.
As you become more aware of your stress and its effects, you can start to recognise patterns and come up with coping methods.
2. Eat well
Even if your work is not physically hard, if you don’t have enough energy it will make everything that little bit more difficult. By starting the day with a good breakfast, you get the energy and focus you need for a positive start. Same goes for lunch – try not to have anything too heavy or fatty, but eat slow-burning carbs and protein to give you energy throughout the day.
Being stressed is tiring. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet means your body will be fit and healthy, which can help you with your mood, tiredness and in tackling stress.
3. Take a break
Whether it’s a proper, hour-long lunch break, a long weekend or a fortnight trip abroad, taking a break from work can help put your stresses in perspective.
There’s pressure in many businesses for people to work through their lunch break. However, taking a decent break in the middle of the day and getting out of the office can help make you more productive and focussed in the afternoon, and means you can handle your workload better. The same goes for shorter, five-minute breaks. Taking a step back and a breather can help keep your work in perspective.
For longer holidays, make sure that you’ve got everything you need to do sorted before you go, and you’ve updated any colleagues covering your work on what needs to be done. While it might feel like you want to keep an eye on your emails, try switching them off for the majority of your holiday so you can stop thinking about work for a few days at least.
4. Just say no
Sometimes you have to get everything in order, which means saying ‘no’ to more work so you can get what’s on your plate done. While to some this may feel like you’re slacking off, in fact it can help your productivity in the long term.
If you’re stressed and struggling with your workload and your boss adds something else to your schedule try just talking to him or her and explain your situation, saying that you feel it would be better for the company if you finished your current project before taking more on.
5. Talk it through
Stress and anxiety can be hard to spot in other people if you don’t know them well. From the outside it might seem to your boss like you’re handling everything well – if you don’t talk about it, your boss might never know.
It doesn’t have to be a major talk, just a quick chat to say that you’re struggling with your workload a bit and could you have a few days to clear your current workload or maybe see if you can get some help from one of your colleagues.
Your company might also have a counsellor that you could talk to anonymously. Even if they can’t affect your workload or hours, just talking it through with someone can help.
6. Make a plan
When it all gets too much, take five minutes to write down a plan on how you’re going to tackle it all. Break it down into manageable pieces and tick them off one by one. The positive action of simply completing one small task and removing it from your list can help boost your mood and decrease your anxiety.
If you find you’re taking your work home with you and can’t stop thinking about it, make a list when you get home of your plans for the following day or just before you go to bed so you can sleep well.
While it’s good to prioritise the important tasks, you might want to put a few less important, smaller tasks at the top of your list – get these done and your list suddenly looks a lot smaller and less frightening.
7. Sleep it off
One of the best ways to help combat stress is a good night’s sleep. Making a list, as suggested above, before you go to bed can help take the stress off your mind.
You might also want to consider eating a bit earlier and having lighter meals. And try to avoid alcohol or other stimulants like caffeine close to your bedtime.
People to talk to
If you are still having problems and want to talk with someone about it, there are plenty of options. If you are experiencing sleep problems or depression you should see a health professional.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your boss, colleagues or even your partner, there are bodies and charities that can help.
The Health and Safety Executive has a number of resources on workplace stress including an online discussion group. Not for profit group, the Stress Management Society has articles, factsheets and workshops that could also help you manage your stress.
There are also a number of helplines to call to talk through your issues including No Panic (0844 967 4848) and the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90). These are great as they offer anonymous, judgement-free support.
You might also want to consider talking with your union representative, work counsellor or your GP.
Written by Fraser Wood.