Stress at work

Since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been held every April. It might seem odd to ‘celebrate’ something that is the body’s response to feeling threatened or under pressure.

The aim was to raise public awareness and help find cures for the modern stress epidemic and in its 29-year history never has Stress Awareness Month been so apt than in 2021.

In this blog, we’re going to look at how you can deal with stress at work, and how more often than not the answers to getting on top of your stress lie outside of the office.

Do you ever feel like you’re standing at the top of a mountain, where everyone can see you, you’re exposed, all their eyes are on your expecting more and more from you, yet you feel like you have nothing left to give or your mind is moving so fast that you go to speak but nothing comes out? If this sounds familiar you might be suffering from stress. So just how can stress make us feel? We’ve listed the most common feelings associated with stress below, it’s worth nothing everyone experience stress in different ways, you might have experienced one, a few or all the symptoms listed below at anyone time and it’s by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lacking in concentration
  • Irritable
  • Lethargy
  • Increased headaches
  • Shoulder and upper body tension

How has the Coronavirus pandemic increased feelings of stress?

Mental Health and Wellness expert psychologist Dr Audrey Tang recently commented on BBC radio how the pandemic has affected our sleep and working from home, while bringing with it numerous benefits, has blurred the lines between work and home life. Usual outlets, including visits to the pub, spa days and meals out haven’t been available. That being said, some people have enjoyed “calendar freedom” over the last year and have felt less stressed. For some of us, lockdown has given us the chance to press pause, to reflect on previous commitments and assess whether we want to go back to them once life returns to “normal”. A prolonged period of time out of the office and in our own environment, enjoying walks at lunch and trying out new recipes has been incredible medicine for lots of people. However, if you fit into the former category and lockdown has left you feeling more stressed, what can you do to feel stressed at work?

How to deal with stress at work:

  1. Chat to your colleagues, if you’re working from home make sure you speak to your colleagues regularly, not about work, about general life things as you would when you’re in the office. And if you’re back in the office, ask a colleague if they’d like to go for a walk at lunch or take ten minutes out and have a cup of tea in the kitchen. Talking more will help relieve stress at work and opening up to your colleagues means they can help you find solutions to the stressful situations you’re facing.
  2. Reframe conversations. Practical action will help you deal with stressful situations, instead of dwelling on stressful work conversations or situations, try to reframe them. Question how you could improve next time and establish what’s in your power to change the situation. And if you feel you need external help with this, seek out your line manager to see how they can offer assistance.
  3. Give yourself time to be present. You might be at work but that doesn’t mean you have to sit at your computer for the whole eight hours. Make sure you get up every hour, make yourself a drink and stretch your legs. This is particularly important if you’re finding a task overwhelming and struggling to get on top of it. Before these feelings lead to feelings of stress, walk away from it temporarily. Give your mind and body space away from the task so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective, more often than not when you come back to a task you will be able to focus more deeply without it making you feel drained.
  4. Write it down. Lists can really work in dealing with stress at work. Get that to-do list out of your head and onto a piece of paper, not only will it help clear your mind, the sense of satisfaction when you physically tick off tasks will be sure to relieve some stress.
Stress at work

So if you’re prone to feeling stressed at work, how can you relieve stress?

75% of people asked noticed an improvement in their mental health after taking up an outdoor exercise.
  1. Happiness is a state of mind. Choose happiness and focus on your little wins. Did you complete that task that’s been on your to-do list for weeks? Was the cup of coffee you made for yourself particularly delicious?
  2. Consider your posture. When you look the part you’ll feel the part right? Standing tall and throwing those shoulders back will not only tell those around you that you mean business, but it will open your lungs and improve your breathing which in turn has a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.
  3. Exercise and fresh air. Taking the time to exercise and get outdoors can be a great antidote to any feelings of stress you may encounter. A survey completed by Cycleplan found that 75% of people felt an improvement in their mental health after taking up the activity. So could you start cycling to work or walking in the morning? Energising your body and getting it moving will help you readdress the balance of stress in your body and will help you walk into the office with a renewed sense of purpose.
  4. Live in the present. We’re all guilty of thinking of the big work “rocks” that are on the horizon, the key here is to not let them consume your mind. Now we’re not saying stop being organised, nor are we discouraging early planning but if you really don’t need to start thinking about it yet, stop giving the task so much brain space. Focus on the now and how you can be the best version of yourself in the present moment.
  5. Drink more water. Dehydration can lead to higher cortisol levels (the stress hormone) so by staying hydrated you will be better equipped to deal with the everyday issues you face. Water also cleanses the body of toxins which play a part in slowing you down – so let’s stay hydrated and embrace having more energy!

So to summarise, this month (and in fact every month) let’s pledge to look after ourselves, check in with others, acknowledging how we’re feeling and striving to do something about it before it gets too much and feelings of stress start to creep in.

You might also be interested in reading about how could the Leap Like a Salmon Wellbeing Wheel could help you get on top of stress. The Wellbeing Wheel provides a holistic view of eight important areas of wellbeing. Each of these areas is supported with information and activities to encourage members to focus on these in simple and sustainable ways. The wheel gives you permission to ‘regroup’ and identify a current picture for yourself. Very simply it helps you recognise what areas you’re doing well in as well as areas of your wellbeing that need some attention. In a positive and encouraging way, the Wellbeing Wheel can then coax you into adding some simple changes in the areas that will make a big difference to you.

Stress at work, find out about the wellbeing wheel

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Keep positive and curious.

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