Work-related stress is a serious problem, with 40% of Brits feeling like they’re at “breaking point” as a result. Regardless of your occupation, it’s likely that you have experienced some level of workplace stress at some point, especially amid the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and job market. While stress can arise for many reasons. from hefty workloads and tight deadlines to difficult clients, the causes are ultimately different for everyone. Common signs of workplace stress include feeling unusually irritable, anxious or depressed, losing interest in your work activities, fatigue, or having trouble sleeping.
Stress doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, though, and in small doses it actually can help you stay focused and energetic, and provides opportunities to challenge yourself. But too much can have adverse effects, leaving you exhausted, worried and overwhelmed. However, there are many ways to combat stress, and here are five of the most effective.
1. Attend a stress management course
Participating in a stress management course can help you identify the sources of these issues, whether they stem from long hours at work, too much pressure or changes in structure or practice within your workplace itself. It can also equip you with the appropriate tools, techniques and strategies to dealing with this stress most effectively. This can help you manage any challenging situations, which will in turn make you a more resilient worker. For instance, MTD’s stress management course explores a variety of topics, including ways to combat stress, making decisions under pressure, and learning what raises stress levels in a workplace.
2. Exercise more
Endorphins, the so-called “feel-good” chemicals, are released during exercise and act as a natural painkiller — hence why it’s often known as a “runner’s high”. Getting moving in whichever way you want, whether that’s running, walking or a yoga session, will lower your body’s levels of stress hormones, which can improve your mood and make you feel less irritated.
Engaging in some light physical activity can help combat stress by clearing your mind and enable you to see things more clearly — for instance, if you’re stuck on a difficult task, distracting yourself with exercise might help you better understand what you need to do next. Leaving your desk for a short period of time also engages your body and mind as you step away from any stressful projects, giving you time away from any work-related tasks. While it won’t necessarily make stress disappear altogether, it can reduce its intensity, and help you work through problems more calmly. Just thirty minutes of daily movement has been proven to improve your mood, while regular exercise also improves your quality of sleep, and lowers your risk of health conditions and diseases, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
It’s easy to neglect your physical health while busy at work, but this can impact your mental health as well. We would recommend taking a short walk at lunch and exercising outside of work hours — try lifting weights at the gym, attending a fitness class or going for a run. Whatever kind of exercise you love, simply start incorporating it into your life more, and you’ll feel the benefits in no time.
3. Try meditation
Finding somewhere free of distractions and interruptions to spend time on meditation or mindfulness can allow your body to enter a state of relaxation. Meditation is a practise where you train your body and mind to achieve a mentally calm and stable state through deep concentration, and learning how to control your breathing to dissipate any stress as it arises. Afterwards, you will then enjoy additional benefits, such as an increased attention span, and healthier emotional wellbeing.
Mediation can reverse the physiological symptoms of stress by slowing down your heart rate and lowering blood pressure, as well as counteract the body’s flight or fight response, building your resilience to stress. Those who meditate regularly can also recover from stressful situations more easily, and experience these moments less intensely.
4. Get some rest
Sleep is essential to repairing our bodies, maintaining our cognitive abilities such as communication, memory and creativity, and keeping us productive during the day. Consequently, not getting enough can have particularly negative effects on physical and mental health, with one in three people suffer from sleep deprivation. This can be linked to serious health conditions like diabetes, hypertension and a suppressed immune system.
It’s recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night to function properly, however, research has shown that the average person only gets six. Common signs of poor sleep include performance deterioration, decreased concentration, and increased rates of sickness. To get a good night’s rest, develop a routine which sees you going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. You should also limit caffeine intake in the evening, and stop looking at your phone, computer or television at least an hour before bed. For even better sleep hygiene, try to create a comfortable, soothing night-time environment.
5. Learn how to say no
Saying yes to every request and opportunity isn’t always feasible, especially if your job is busy already. By adding another task to your crammed to-do list, you’re allowing more stress to enter your life. If you find yourself too busy at the time, it’s okay to say no — this doesn’t make you a bad person, nor should it make your employer see you as disloyal. Instead, it simply means that you’re putting yourself first in order to prevent burnout.
Although saying yes may seem the norm — after all, no one wants to let their team down or feel guilty about declining work — overexerting yourself too much will drastically impact the quality of your output anyway. Consider whether or not you have room to accept new tasks, and if you don’t, be honest about it. Tackling too many projects at once will only increase stress levels in the long term.