Work-related stress is your body’s response to work demands and pressures which exceed your knowledge and ability, or which are beyond your capacity to cope. But how many effective ways to deal with stress at work do you know?
It is the most common work-related illness in the UK, with recent employee wellbeing statistics highlighting the extent of the issue.
Stress in work is often unavoidable, and you may even perceive a certain amount of stress to be acceptable, or even healthy.
However, when that pressure becomes unmanageable, it becomes an issue which can damage both your health and your performance.
Almost everyone will experience work-related stress at some point in their career. During these times, effectively managing your stress is vital for your overall health.
This guide will provide you with 10 simple ways to deal with stress at work.
1. Open up to your manager
The first and most important step in managing work-related stress is opening up to your manager about what you are experiencing.
By doing so, you are giving them the opportunity to appropriately support you; ultimately, they can only help with issues they know about.
If you’re unsure about how to approach this conversation, this guide gives useful advice on talking about mental health at work.
2. Identify your stressors
Second in our list of ways to deal with stress at work is the strategy of identifying your stressors.
Pinpointing your causes of stress is the first step towards reducing them. So, reflect on the aspects of your work that are causing you stress, and the ways that you respond to them. Journaling can help with this.
Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can move on to figuring out how you can reduce them or respond to them in a positive way.
3. Establish healthy work/life boundaries
With the increase in remote working, it has been common for work/life boundaries to become work/life blends, which is a significant risk factor for burnout.
Take some steps to ensure a healthy boundary between your life inside and outside of work. These could involve:
- Turning work-related notifications off on your phone
- Setting clear times for work, and clear times for leisure
- Developing “shut-down” routines to signify the end of the working day
4. Take control
Stress is often associated with a feeling of lacking control. Taking the attitude that you cannot do anything about your stressors will only increase their power over you.
Instead, you can take some steps to regain that feeling of control, which in itself is extremely empowering.
These steps could include:
- Turning down work that is outside of your capability
- Asking your manager for training to help you develop in your role
- Opening up to your organisation about the causes of your work-related stress
5. Develop healthy responses to stress
Stress can often trigger unhealthy behaviours, like neglecting sleep, drinking alcohol excessively or bingeing on unhealthy foods.
Turn that on its head, by doing your best to make healthy choices when the pressure increases. Examples of these could include:
- Allowing enough time for a healthy amount of high-quality sleep
- Maintaining a nutritious diet – not only is this healthier, but research shows that nutritious foods have stress-relieving benefits
Physical activity is one of the best stress-busters out there. But when we’re stressed, we can often neglect exercise, in favour of spending endless hours in our seats, wading through task after task.
Break these long sitting periods with bursts of physical activity, even if it is just a 10-minute walk. During this time, you’ll also receive the mental health benefits of nature by exercising outdoors.
While exercise won’t make your stress disappear, it’s likely to reduce the intensity of the emotion that you’re feeling, giving you the space to clear your thoughts and allowing you to deal with your problems more calmly.
7. Learn to say no
When workload exceeds capacity, employees often feel that they have no choice but to overwork.
However, there is another choice. You can say ‘no’. You know your abilities better than anyone, so you are best placed to give advice about your workload.
When you say no, outline your reasons in a measured way, and try to come up with a solution.
Sensible employers would prefer you to be honest about being unable to complete a task, instead of you taking it on at the detriment to your other work (and wellbeing).
8. Utilise your support system
We all experience tough times at work, so we need to know who we can rely on when this happens.
Identify the support system you can lean on during this time, whether that be friends, family or even colleagues at work.
Many employers contribute to this system, by offering internal services, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to support struggling employees.
If you require external support, then you should contact your GP, or an external service, such as the Samaritans.
9. Reward yourself for a job well done
When work gets busy, it’s tempting to only focus on the next task, rather than rewarding yourself for the task you’ve just completed.
When you complete a task, especially if it’s a significant one, reward yourself for your achievements.
It doesn’t have to be anything special! It could be a walk round the block, a chat with co-workers, your favourite coffee, anything that you enjoy.
10. Work smarter not harder
The last in our list of ways to deal with stress at work is to try a smart working technique, known as “eating your frogs”.
If you have a lot of work to do, concentrate on the tasks that will make a real difference. Leave the least important tasks till last.
By reducing the amount of urgent tasks in your in-tray, you will prevent the stress that is caused by having a large amount of high-priority tasks that need to be completed at the same time.
Ways to deal with stress at work: Looking forward
Managing and reducing stress is not always easy. It can take time to figure out which ways to deal with stress at work are most effective for you.
However, it is well worth the effort, as effectively doing so can have life-changing benefits.
Once you’ve determined the best way to manage your own work-related stress, don’t just stop there! Take steps to help others at work who may be struggling.
By taking the right steps, you can give yourself and others the opportunity to live a happier, healthier life, while also being productive in work.