Published November 4, 2020
How to manage stress in the workplace
We talk about stress but we don’t often take it seriously. Stress in the workplace can feel all-consuming and too much stress can affect how well we perform within our roles. Professor Cary Cooper, Occupational Health Psychologist at the University of Lancaster, says that not taking control of your stress and looking to overcome it can make the issue worse. He states that the key to managing stress is to acknowledge the stress and take control, engage in activities that build emotional strength and adopt a more positive outlook. To acknowledge Stress Awareness Day we’ve put together our top five tips to help you overcome day to day stress in order to get the most out of your professional life.
“Wellbeing isn’t about sushi and mindfulness at lunchtime, it’s about thinking strategically” – Cary Cooper
Improve time and task management
Thinking about all the tasks you need to complete and the time in which you need to complete them can send our stress levels soaring, so much so that its difficult to focus on one task let alone more. Get into the habit of creating a daily plan the night before your working day. Write out all the tasks you need to complete and estimated time they’ll take, you can break down each task into points if needed. Then reorder the tasks in order of urgency. Having a visual plan on your desk in the morning will alleviate the stress of not knowing where to start and will help you improve your time management skills. There’s also something to be said for the satisfaction of crossing each task off once you’ve completed it.
Get up and move around
We all know that being active can only benefit us, both physically and mentally. Alexander Pope said, “Strength of mind is exercise, not rest” and there have been countless studies that prove this theory right. Therefore it is important that we get up and move during our working day giving our minds a break from overwhelming workloads. We’re not suggesting you squeeze an intense gym session into the middle of your day, simply getting up from your desk and walking to make a cup of tea or just getting five minutes of fresh air can be really effective in calming the mind. Obviously, different job roles require different amounts of desk time so fit in a movement where you can. Exercise is also a great way to destress after the working day. Whether you go to an exercise class once or twice a week or simply go for a fifteen-minute walk around your local area this kind of movement will get those endorphins pumping and help you disconnect from the working day.
Many people who report feeling stressed often also have trouble getting a good nights rest. This vicious cycle of feeling tired, having a stressful day then not getting enough sleep can lead to all sorts of issues. Feeling rested all comes down to good sleep hygieneF, this means having both healthy sleep and daily routines that promote good rest at night. A healthy sleep routine can include having consistent bedtime and wake time, turning off screens one hour before bed (this includes the tv, phones and tablets), making sure your bedroom is a calm and clutter-free environment and having a positive nightly routine such as reading a book before bed or engaging in light meditation. Good sleep hygiene will differ from person to person so try to find a routine that works for you. These routines will have a positive effect on your daily life as you will feel more rested and ready for your working day.
Make time for yourself, your friends and family
A lot of us can feel like we’re living to work not working to live. In other words, we are so consumed by our work that we don’t take time to enjoy our personal lives. Switching off from work and taking the time to engage in activities that you enjoy on your own or spending quality time with friends and family is vitally important in managing stress in general but workplace stress in particular. Taking a little me-time will help you escape and unwind from the working week. Rember, you’re not a robot, you need to do things that make you happy. If you’re happy you’ll naturally be a better professional. Likewise, spending quality time with friends and family will improve your wellbeing. It will also keep your support network strong should you need reassurance in stressful times.
Eliminate negative thoughts and self-imposed stress
A lot of the stress we feel can often be self-imposed. Perfectionism and eagerness to perform at 100% capacity all of the time can often get the better of us and cause us more stress than is actually necessary. Chronic stress can lead to negative thoughts and in the workplace, these can manifest in ways such as feeling as though your not worthy of your role or that you’ll never get a promotion. The Harvard Health Blog suggests that when thoughts like this occur we should turn them into questions rather than facts; for example “what are my professional strengths within my role and what can I improve upon?” or “What practical steps can I take to increase my chances of promotion?”. Retraining our negative thought patterns in this way helps us to look at problems objectively rather than becoming emotional or self-deprecating. This is a process that certainly doesn’t happen overnight, especially for those of us that are more self-critical, but practise can help us change these thought behaviours in a positive way.