It can often feel as though being stressed at work is part of our routine, and a perfectly normal emotion to feel during working hours. In short infrequent bursts, it can be. However, recent research from CABA, the wellbeing charity, has found that almost 73% of us feel stressed at work, with the bulk of us feeling that pressure for up to 30 minutes of each day. Whilst a certain amount of stress is good for us, too much can begin to impact our mental and physical wellbeing.
For some, a degree of pressure can be motivating and can help cross items off the to do list, but if these levels are excessive, we risk reaching a stress overload or even burnout, and that's bad news for our health.
Stress causes our adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol – and too much of it in our system puts us at increased risk of impaired cognitive performance, high blood pressure and heart disease. So, while a certain amount of pressure and stress may be part and parcel of modern life, it's important to keep an eye out for the early warning signs that things are getting too much.
Common effects of stress can include, but aren't limited to:
- Focusing on negatives or being constantly worried about things
- Struggling to relax
- Sleeping more than usual
- Physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, aches and pains, diarrhoea, constipation, frequent colds, chest pain or a rapid heartbeat
- Not wanting to socialise or see family and friends
- Lack of sexual appetite
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
If any of these sounds familiar, you might benefit from taking a few simple steps to manage your stress levels. Firstly, it's important to take action, and not just hope it will go away on its own. start looking at how you can alleviate excessive stress in your life and then talk to your GP.
Managing your stress can be difficult to do, but is essential to prevent escalation and potential burnout. While it's often not a viable option to remove ourselves from a stressful situation or make significant changes, we can change the way we cope. Stress management is really about taking charge and looking at what changes you can make to reduce your stress levels. This could mean changing the way you think about a situation, making changes to your schedule or your environment, or looking at how you can handle problems differently. And at stressful times, it's even more important to take care of yourself, and set time aside for rest and relaxation.
Here are 5 ways you can keep your stress at bay:
- Be active. If you're feeling stressed, physical activity can help to clear your mind, so that you can identify the cause of your stress and deal with your problems more calmly.
- Make connections. A problem shared is a problem halved. Having a good support network is a cornerstone of wellbeing in times of stress.
- Make some 'me time'. Carving out some time for yourself is essential. Try to set aside some time at least a couple of nights a week for socialising, relaxation or exercise.
- Challenge yourself. Pushing yourself to learn something new, such as a new language or a sport, builds confidence – which in turn helps you to become more emotionally resilient and better able to deal with stress.
- Be positive. Try to be 'glass half full' instead of 'glass half empty'. You can train yourself to be more positive, even if you're a natural pessimist. Start by writing down 3 things at the end of each day that went well, or that you're grateful for. You should find it helps you to look at your situation from a more positive viewpoint.
There's no need to allow stress to take over your life, by working to getting a handle on these feelings you can maximise not only the time you have at work, but the time outside of the office. After all, fulltime employees spend more time at work than they do at home, so taking care of the stress we feel at work will make a huge impact on our mood at home.