A certain level of stress at work is often unavoidable. But, if you find it’s becoming difficult to deal with that stress on a daily basis, it’s important to be proactive before it turns into a real problem.
Workplace stress can be damaging to both your mental and physical health. It may lead to anxiety and depression, or damage your personal relationships outside work.
Almost a third of Australian workers regularly feel a high level of stress at work and say that this impacts their job satisfaction. If you don’t feel happy at work, it will impact all other areas of your life. This is why it’s important to have a strategy in place to deal with any stress you experience at work before it becomes a serious problem.
There are various factors at work that may contribute to a high-stress level. These include:
- Excessively high workload
- Poor support from management and colleagues
- Long hours with insufficient breaks
- Job insecurity
- Workplace discrimination or bullying
- Unrealistic targets or time pressures
Identifying what is causing your stress at work can help you to combat it. If you’re facing unrealistic targets or a heavy workload, your first step should be to talk to your line manager and explain the pressures you’re feeling and how they’re impacting on your mental health.
Beyond this, there are a number of steps you can take yourself to reduce the impact of workplace stress on a daily basis and help you to feel happier and more fulfilled at work.
Get Regular Fresh Air and Exercise
Physical exercise can have a huge impact on mental health and has been proven to prevent and manage depression. Physically getting away from the place that is responsible for the stress you feel, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, can also help to give you a mental break. With a healthy break, you can return to work feeling better prepared to tackle your day.
Spending time in nature has also been shown to reduce levels of cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’ – as well as boosting your concentration, creative thinking skills, and reducing mental fatigue.
Instead of sitting at your desk for your lunch break, make sure you get up and get outside for a quick walk to refresh both your body and mind.
Take Time to Plan and Organise
Being disorganised can add to stress levels, reduce your productivity, and cause you to fall behind with work projects, which can make your workload seem even more overwhelming.
Take just a few minutes at the beginning of your day to plan out your work for the day. Use this time to make sure long-term projects are scheduled properly so that you have enough time to do everything effectively.
If you manage others, make sure their workload is organised properly too, and that any deadlines and commitments are clearly defined.
Eat Healthily and Stay Hydrated
It can be tempting to eat unhealthy snacks and fast foods when you’re busy at work, but this is not helpful for either your physical or mental health.
Caffeine and sugar may provide a temporary boost of energy but this quickly wears off, leading to a ‘crash’ that can make you feel tired, stressed, and irritable.
Aim to keep your blood sugar levels at work steady by opting for slow-release carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Avoid drinking too much coffee at work and make a point of drinking plenty of water. There’s evidence that dehydration can increase stress levels. A quick trip to the water cooler is a good excuse to stretch your legs and get away from your desk for a few minutes.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
If you think meditation is new age nonsense, think again. Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and physically changes your brain to improve memory, focus, and decision-making skills.
You don’t need to spend hours meditating to benefit – just a few minutes at your desk or in the morning before you leave for work can make a big difference. Apps such as Headspace can help get you started.
Mindfulness is a similar practice to meditation that you can use throughout your working day to stay present in the current moment and stop worrying about the past, future, or things that are beyond your control.
Remember to Ask for Help if You Need It
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and as if staying mentally healthy is beyond your control, there’s no shame in asking for help. Chatting with your manager to let him or her know the pressures you’re facing is important and you may be able to come up with a strategy together that will help.
If you need help coping more effectively with everyday events or mental health challenges, talk to our team or arrange an individual assessment to see how we can help you.