Stress Awareness Month – Workplace Stress Part 1

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992. It is during this month that health care professionals and supporters join forces to highlight the causes and solutions for life stresses. 

In this two part blog, firstly I want to cover workplace stress – how to identify it, how it affects us and also the ways to combat it.

Most people at some point in their life have experienced workplace stress and during peak times such as new product launches, staff turnover, new technology implementation or a corporate event, pressure at work should be expected. However, it is when every day feels stressful and overwhelming, that things need to to be addressed and changed as this can be harmful to both our physical and emotional health, and our home life.  

Unfortunately, this is all too common, with many people, simply living with it as the “norm” and explaining that it’s “just part of the job”. We know stress causes poor sleep, bad eating and exercise habits, negative moods and outlook, so it should never be ignored.

Some common things that can cause workplace stress:

  • Negative team environment
  • Unrealistic workloads
  • Little opportunity for growth
  • Un-engaging work
  • Low salaries 
  • Lack of managerial support
  • Conflicting demands or unclear expectations
  • Workplace bullying
  • Conflict within the team
  • Poor office procedures or technology 
  • Co-workers underperforming

How to acknowledge, manage and reduce stress:

  • Monitor your triggers – It is really important to work out exactly what causes you the most stress, so that way you can work out ways to fix those issues. Keep a journal or notes for a week or two of what situations or triggers cause the most stress whilst at work, and also it is important to note how you respond in these moments.
  • Responses – You cannot avoid stressful situations or stop stressful things from happening, however you can change how you respond to them. The first rule is to acknowledge the stress, rather than fight it or ignore it.  Try to find a response that will help you which you feel negative emotions surfacing, such as have a 5 minute walk, or deep breathing.  Adding something regularly into your life such as yoga, meditation or even reading can be healthy responses. 
  • Balance – Ensure you have time scheduled into your life for activities that bring you pleasure and enjoyment – playing with the kids, taking the dog for a walk, watching your favourite show, going for a great meal, reading a great book or going to the gym. Whatever it may be, make sure it is scheduled and built into your life. 
  • Avoid negative reactions – Often when we are stressed at work, we let it filter into all other aspects of our life. So after a tough day, we could be unfriendly at home, choose an unhealthy meal or forget going to the gym or cancel catching up with mates. This is the worst thing to do, in fact, when things are tough at work that is when we should throw ourselves into all the good aspects in our life, and the great things we do have. This shows us things are not so bad and helps us to reconnect with the good. 
  • Me time – In this tech crazy world we are so connected to work, that we rarely have real down time or switch off. It feels like we never leave work at the office, it actually now comes home with us in our pocket. It’s very important to set boundaries and give ourselves time for family and the things we enjoy. It isn’t an easy process and takes practice and discipline. Turn off you phone between certain hours, ensure holidays and days off are not wasted, learn to say no more, ask for help and delegate when needed, and do activities such as meditation and getting out in nature to relax and recharge your mind and body. By taking “me” time, you will return to work with more enthusiasm, focus and strength.
  • Talk to someone – Whether your boss, HR or a colleague or friend, if you feel chronic stress at work, it is time to speak to someone and try to find a solution. Employee health is vital for productivity, so it’s in the best interest of the company to look after their people. Start with an honest conversation which focuses on finding solutions, and putting a plan together to combat stress and get you the support you need. If you are really struggling perhaps look into speaking to a psychologist or counsellor. 
  • Find your joy – If you truly are unfulfilled and unsupported in your job and it is unlikely to get better or improve even after voicing your concerns, then look for a role that will meet all your needs. Never just quit, however, begin to look at some roles and businesses that have a growth mindset culture, a place where employees thrive, somewhere you will be challenged and grow. If a complete job change is not possible right now, then look into a hobby you could take on like writing, sport, drawing, learning a language etc, that will get your joy flowing again. You never know who you may meet and connect with.

Ongoing stress shouldn’t just be part of your everyday working life. Make a decision and commitment today, to change your life for the better.

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