A little bit of stress is good for us. It keeps us on our toes, helps us rise to a challenge and can even act as a motivator. But, if you start to feel tired, anxious, irritable and unhappy, then it could be a sign that your stress levels are out of kilter.
Studies have shown that for UK adults, work is the biggest cause of stress, with 59% of people affected by it. With this in mind, finding ways to cope with stress at work is essential.
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Experiencing regular stress at work can be bad for your health, increasing the risk of contracting a range of illnesses. But, it’s also not a pleasant thing to have to endure, day-in, day-out. If stress is a feature at your work, try to decipher what’s causing it in the first place. This often falls into two categories – things that are under your control and external factors, or it could be a mixture of both.
Change how you work
Stress factors caused by things under your control are often the easiest to influence, as you’re in the driving seat to make changes for the better. If you experience stress because you struggle to get tasks done on time, or never seem to be able to find the documents you need, practise better time management and get your desk space more organised. Learn how to prioritise and delegate, and don’t set yourself unrealistic deadlines or targets. If you’re overwhelmed by work, say no to pushy colleagues who put-upon you. Allocate time at the end of the day to check emails or messages so you don’t suffer constant interruption.
The average working professional is said to have between 30 to 100 projects on the go. The thought of this alone is enough to send stress levels rocketing, but instead of looking at the bigger picture, think small. Take each project and dissect it into small, manageable chunks of tasks with realistic time frames, so that the projects don’t seem so daunting.
If stress is being caused by things out of your control, perhaps by a bossy or uncooperative colleague, or you’re unhappy with certain working conditions, be brave and tackle the issue head on. Arrange a meeting with the appropriate person or your manager and discuss your concerns. Write points down to refer to, if necessary.
Check your job description and contract terms and conditions, and flag up any aspects that are amiss and could be contributing to your stress. Many issues can be quickly resolved by getting things out in the open, where you’ll probably wonder why you let problems drag on for so long.
Contact and support
Some jobs are inherently stressful, particularly if you have to deal with difficult situations or vulnerable people. Often, it’s not always easy to switch off from the stress when you go home. Talking to colleagues or other professionals can help to ease the burden of your stress, giving you support to put things into perspective and switch off.
Stress can take its toll on your body, so keep yourself healthy to reduce any negative impacts. Take regular breaks throughout the working day and never skip your lunch break, no matter how busy you are. Get some fresh air outdoors or do some exercise to reduce stress levels and get the blood flowing. Eat healthy foods to top up nutrients that are often depleted when we get stressed.
Make a change
If workplace stress factors can’t be changed, then your last option might be to ask for a transfer or adjustments to your duties. This may mean a drop in pay or working hours, but many people are willing to sacrifice these if it means their stress levels diminish.