I’ve often heard people say, “You never used to hear about work stress.” But is that entirely true? Or, is it just that we’re more open and aware of the issue today?
I wonder if working life was easier centuries ago?
In Roman Britain workers were told exactly what to do, and they did it. If they didn’t do it right, or failed to do it fast enough, they got whipped.
When they became too old or weak to work they were sent to the arena to fight the lions, which was all in the name of sport on a Saturday afternoon of course!
Was this a stress free working environment?
So, how do we define stress? The Health and Safety Executive define work-related stress as:
“The reaction people have to excessive demands or pressures, arising when people try to cope with tasks, responsibilities or others types of pressure connected with their jobs, but find difficulty, strain or worry in doing so.”
Symptoms of stress
The Health and Safety Executive’s publication ‘Working on Stress’ (2002) lists the following:
- Headaches, migraines, tremors, nervous tics
- Anxiety, loss of sense of humour
- Dry mouth, lump in throat
- Muscular tension and pain
- Coughs and asthma
- Ulcers due to heartburn and indegestion
- Abnormal pain in bowels and diarrhoea
- Frequent urination
- Impotence in men, menstrual disorders in women
- Dry skin and rashes
- Rapid tiredness
Have you experienced any of the above?
Practical steps you can take to tackle work related stress
#1 Talk about it. Raise stress issues at team meetings, or with your Health and Safety rep. If you’re experiencing problems, chances are others are too, and the opportunity to discuss issues may provide solutions for everyone.
#2 Set daily goals. It’s easier to cope with a large workload if you take it one step at a time. By setting daily goals you’ll be more focused on what you want to achieve, and you can then begin working towards that goal. Remember to set goals that are manageable each day.
#3 Organise de-stress activities at lunch time for you and your colleagues. How about a yoga class, book club, or a walking group?
#4 Find a mentor or a friend. Just having someone to talk to one-to-one can massively reduce feelings of stress. By talking about problems you unconsciously begin finding solutions to the problem. A problem shared really is a problem halved!
#5 Use positive self-talk. Rather than saying “I just can’t handle this!” Try “I can tackle this one step at a time” or “Somehow the team will work this out!” When you find yourself in a stressful situation, think of it as a challenge.
#6 Get enough sleep. Sleep has a massive impact in every area of our life. If you’re sleep deprived you’ll undoubtedly feel more stressed, and things will get to you more easily than they normally would. Aim for 7-8 hours each night for maximum benefit.
#7 Visit your GP. If you can’t seem to get over the stress definitely bring it up with your doctor. Remember, there’s no point suffering in silence, and there’s no shame in admitting you feel under pressure, we’ve all experienced it from time to time!
Make the most of break times
#8 Take short, regular breaks. A five minute break to get up and move away from your desk, perhaps go for a walk outside, or make a cup of tea, can be extremely beneficial. You could also try some breathing exercises to help you stay calm and focused.
#9 Schedule your lunch break. Start treating lunch like any other meeting, by putting it into your daily planner. You’ll be surprised by how much your productivity increases by just knowing that you need to finish your work for a specified time.
#10 Do something you enjoy at lunch. Perhaps it’s reading the newspaper, or a book, maybe you have time for a quick yoga class, perhaps listening to your favourite music, just do whatever makes your feel rejuvenated and ready for the afternoon ahead!
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and reevaluate your situation. Is stress an effective way to function? Does it help get the job done? Is it benefiting your health?
Honestly, no job or employer is worth risking our health and happiness for!
For more tips on reducing stress at work check out this post.
What are your tips for dealing with stress at work?
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Some information taken from Dietetics Today, Vol 44 (04).