Feeling stressed at work can be quite normal and quite manageable. However, for some, stress in the workplace can become unmanageable, particularly if stress levels start to spiral and there are not the tools or support available. Workload overwhelm, deadlines, criticism, lack of support, uncertainty and feeling out of your depth are all contributing factors to stress and anxiety at work. These things activate stress hormones and cause us to lose concentration and lack confidence.
Often the things that cause you to become stressed are not necessarily in your control, however there are steps you can take in your everyday work life that can lessen the effect of these triggers.
Trying to keep stress levels in check before they start to affect your mental health is incredibly important in the modern workplace.
Write down your triggers
It’s easy to go through the day firefighting but without taking a moment to step back and notice how you are holding up. However, this is where you can start to make a difference. Schedule just 5 minutes to yourself during the day, find a quiet space and jot down the things that you feel stressed about. Often the act of writing it down can disperse some of the feelings altogether. It will also bring your attention to what triggers you to feel stressed. Awareness is the first step to having some control over your stress levels.
Look after yourself
It can feel as if there isn’t time to look after yourself during a busy day at work. It sounds obvious, but taking short breaks, giving yourself the permission to have lunch, going for a walk and getting a breath of fresh air are all things that can have a positive affect on your mental health. They can be the difference between feeling recharged and feeling overwhelmed. Try having some electronic-free time before bed, prioritise getting sleep and schedule in time per week to exercise and do something for yourself. More and more workplaces are starting to introduce health and wellness activities – see what your employer has on offer.
What a cliche you may say, but thankfully there is plenty of scientific backing to this simple concept. Just two minutes of concentrating on some gentle breathing can slow down your adrenal system and increase calm in your body. Making your exhale a little longer than your inhale during these two minutes will slow the heart rate, sending a message to the brain so that your mind becomes calmer.
It’s okay to say no!
In a high pressure environment and particularly if you are in a junior position, it can seem nearly impossible to say no. However, piling on more and more work to your schedule actually becomes counterproductive. If you want to impress your boss, keep on top of your workload and learn to say no when you can’t take on any more work. Protect yourself from overwhelm by creating sensible boundaries.
When work becomes overwhelming, it is easy to drift away from our friends and spend less time with the people who make us feel good. Sometimes the more we work, the less we connect with others and so the more our wellbeing suffers. The times when you feel stressed at work are the most important times to draw close to people who know you. Take time away from your workplace to catch up with your friends and loved ones. Talk to people. Share the things that stress you out. Don’t be a stranger!
Ask for help
If things are getting too much then ask for help. If you don’t want to speak to your employer or HR, then reach out to friends and family who can support you. There are some helpful tips here if you need further advice.
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