A good job and a career should have a positive influence on your health and happiness. However, various circumstances can arise making your job a source of stress and potentially even illness.
Causes of work-related stress
Work-related stress and other health issues have become a very common consultation for me in the GP surgery with a whole range of workers affected.
There are many factors that can cause work-related stress but 'workload' is often the biggest cause and something accounting professionals at all levels are incredibly familiar with. Tight deadlines, too much pressure or responsibility or simply too much work will certainly cause stress. Unfortunately, the lifestyle that goes with overwork is detrimental to our health; working late, missing breaks and eating on the go. All of which forgo things which can be protective of resilience and our ability to survive and thrive.
Work-life blend is another key issue. To be well both psychologically and physically you need time for rest and leisure outside of work. If work takes up too many hours it can rule out these protective aspects of our lives, which can lead to illness. We all need that time to recuperate, so when that balance goes amiss we suffer the mental and physical health costs. Sadly, digital connectivity allows us to stay connected to work far longer than we need to and there is an expectation to work increasingly longer hours.
Having time in a normal schedule to take care of yourself, nurture relationships and recuperate allows you to foster resilience and build stronger mental and physical health. It gives you the capacity to cope with busyness as well as stress and challenges at work. This can seem like an overwhelmingly difficult goal in the face of a busy and pressured job but opportunities to look after yourself can be created.
Building up your resilience, both physically and emotionally, can play a large part in creating less stress for yourself. Resilience is the ability to cope, survive and thrive when difficulties arise. Some of that is inherent, but resilience can also be built and developed. We know that resilience comes from positive relationships and a support network as well as certain lifestyle aspects such as relaxation, positive thinking and taking control.
Power of the micro-action
Small changes in your lifestyle can amount to a big difference in your resilience. These can seem trivial – changing your commute for example or what you have for lunch, but actually they can be essential.
It is often impossible to change the big stuff when it comes to your working pattern and the lifestyle that goes with it, so exploring some seemingly small changes, could be hugely valuable. These are known as micro-actions and are easy to adopt, sustain and succeed at. Learning how to build these into your day to day routine is incredibly valuable for good emotional health.
As an example, when scheduling your week, even a busy working week, make room for the people in your life that make you feel good and spend quality time with them. This is proven to improve your mental health and reduce your stress levels.
Likewise, a proper night's sleep is absolutely vital to good physical and strong mental health. It is so fundamental to us as humans and such a mundane, inconsequential part of our routine that it is easy to forget just how important and restorative it can be. For most people, with some simple ideas and guidance, better sleep is possible and hugely beneficial as it can make you feel so much better, physically and mentally.
Building resilience is about small changes that even the busiest of us can make time for and go on to reap the benefits.
Written by: Dr Ellie Cannon
Dr Ellie Cannon is the resident GP for the Mail on Sunday and Mail online but is probably most well known as the on-screen GP for Sky News Sunrise and Channel 5 news.
After a decade in NHS general practice, seeing the massive prevalence of work-related ill health, she published her second book Is Your Job Making You Ill? in January 2018. She uses the ideas of micro-actions and self-driven personal changes to help combat illness and build resilience without jeopardizing a career, and is now working with select firms to help build their emotional wellbeing and people strategy. She is a headline speaker at the inaugural This Can Happen conference - an innovative and solutions-led conference for companies who recognise that staff need support to deal with mental health issues affecting them.