Awareness of stress in the workplace is at a much-improved level these days due to a combination of factors including greater focus on workplace well-being and also the successful efforts of mental health charities.
Sadly, one of the main reasons that awareness of workplace stress is at such a high level is simply that stress levels themselves are at a raised level themselves. Just a quick look at the headlines leaves no doubt as to the extent of this issue within the context of work:
- Work stress may be a trigger for heart disease
- Stress linked to type 2 diabetes
- Employee stress is an issue for 98% of employers indicates new survey
- Work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives
Research commissioned by the Mind mental health charity and released earlier in 2013 indicates that the most stressful factor in people’s lives is work – with just over a third of people saying that work was ‘very stressful’ or ‘quite stressful’ which was more than the numbers feeling similar stress levels regarding financial problems or the state of their health.
What strategies can we use to cope with stress in the workplace?
In the more general sense, a lot of the things we can do to keep workplace stress at bay are just simple, common sense, generic health advice. These are oft-repeated, but that doesn’t make them any less true, though. It is simply the case that you’ll be less prone to stress (and also be in a better position to cope) if you do the following:
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid consumption of alcohol above the recommended limits, smoking and overeating
All of which are good common sense health advice – and repeated here because they are an essential foundation for going further and using a range of more advanced stress management techniques.
It’s worth highlighting at this point that an important factor in coping with stress is accepting that a lot of it is about balance. Making sure we have the right work/ life balance and are able to switch off and relax outside of work are vital in the fight against stress.
There’s also a balance between the employer providing an environment that’s as mentally healthy as possible and the employee taking measures to help minimise their stress levels by following healthy habits. As employees we can also of course proactively help manage our stress by carrying out some of these actions:
Identify stress triggers
You can do this by observing times when you’re feeling stressed and write them down over a period of time. You can then go back and look for the stress triggers. With better knowledge of what causes your stress as an individual, it is possible to devise more effective coping mechanisms. For instance, if you find there’s a certain work task that seems to cause stress more than others, you can explore ways to lessen the associated stress.
What was perhaps seen very much as a minority and somewhat ‘new age’ pursuit, mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity. Studies have shown that not only can it reduce anxiety, it may even have positive physical effects on the brain. Definitely worth investigating.
A very interesting point is made by occupational health expert Cary Cooper on the NHS Choices website, who has this to say:
If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse. That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.
And that really is empowering – if slightly daunting – advice. It means that we have more choices than we often may realise, and that if we take control of things, the feelings of stress may well subside.
- Stress reduction for entrepreneurs and SMEs (thestartupmag.com)
- Stronger support for enterprise is essential to UK growth (thestartupmag.com)
- Levi Strauss The Risk Taker and Entreprenuer (thestartupmag.com)