It’s normal to feel a little pressure at work. A certain amount is healthy and helps us to be more productive. But when the pressure becomes too much, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and stressed. This is when it becomes a problem.
Stress can affect anyone, in any workplace and at any time. But if it isn’t dealt with, it can have catastrophic effects on health, wellbeing and ultimately your productivity – and that of the business.
Why managing stress is important for business
Research by the Health & Safety Executive found that 12.8 million working days are lost to stress every year. Another survey revealed that 1 in 5 of us call in sick due to stress. The writing is on the wall: stress is damaging to business success.
The health risks of workplace stress
Stress is the human reaction to being overwhelmed or under threat. It’s a natural reflex and is part of what’s called the ‘fight or flight’ response. But when this becomes repetitive, it takes a big toll on our bodies. Risks include:
• a lowered immune system
• heart disease
• poor mental health
• high blood pressure
• digestive issues
• fertility problems
Symptoms of workplace stress
When stress hits, it makes itself known. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
• faster heartbeat than normal
• upset stomach
• headaches or dizziness
• tense or painful muscles
• difficulty concentrating
• finding it difficult to make decisions
• forgetting things
• worrying a lot
• being irritable
• change in appetite
• engaging in coping behaviours (e.g. drinking, smoking)
Ways to reduce stress at work
1. Talk about it
They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and it’s not just a myth. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, call a friend or family member and talk about it.
Or if you feel comfortable enough talking to your line manager, put a 121 meeting in their diary to discuss how you’re feeling. Or call your HR/People person/team.
2. Take regular breaks
Taking regular breaks from your work actually makes you more productive than if you power through your day. Try the following: 25 minutes of concentration followed by a 5-minute break and a 15-minute break every 2 hours. And by ‘break’, that means stepping away from your desk and disconnecting with your work completely.
3. Create a list
If you’ve got lots of ‘to-dos’ in your head, an easy way to take the pressure off is to write everything down. If you like to be organised, you could even colour-code each task in order of priority to get your workload in order. Remember to tick them off as you go for that sense of achievement.
4. Need help? Ask for it
You’re only human and you can only do so much. So, it’s important to identify when you’ve got too much on your plate and you begin to feel stressed. Your line manager is there to ensure your workload is manageable, so be sure to discuss it with them if it gets too much.
Remember to delegate to your team, too. What tasks are there on your to-do list that someone else could easily take on?
5. Break it down
A big project can easily seem daunting, and it’s easy to let it stress you out. Take some time to break your projects down into small, bitesize tasks. This will help you to approach the work in a different way and see it as doable, rather than challenging.
What are the different steps for the project? How long will each one take? What tasks will you set yourself and others in order to tick off each step?
6. Get moving
It’s a known fact that exercise gets endorphins flowing, helps boost your mood and looks after your mental health.
“Doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.”
If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you get your body moving. You may not feel like it at first, but pushing yourself to exercise will help you feel better in the long run.
7. Schedule some down-time
Make sure you plan in some ‘me-time’ where you can practice some self-care. The human body can only take on so much, so taking some time to rest and re-charge is essential for managing stress.
Something as simple as a short walk or break during your day can be beneficial. Just make sure you get a breather. Meditating works wonders too- we recommend the Headspace app for a few minutes of peace.
8. Maintain a work-life balance
When you’ve got a lot on your plate at work, it can be easy to work that extra hour in the evenings or check your emails at the weekends. This is an easy – but dangerous – habit to fall into. Apparently 50% of the UK workforce regularly work through their breaks and outside of their working hours.
Establishing the line between your work and personal life is crucial for minimising stress and preventing burnout. You will find you are more productive if you stick to your contracted hours.
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