Woman experiencing workplace stress

Apr 1, 2021

Over 800,000 workers in the UK [1] are suffering with workplace stress, depression or anxiety to such an extent that they feel ill. As staggering a figure as that is, even more shocking is that the HSE’s Labour Force Survey revealed that 17.9 million working days were lost in 2019/20. So, in this blog we are looking at some super ways to relieve your workplace stress.

What IS Workplace Stress?

The HSE provides the definition as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.’[2] As with all mental illnesses, what this adverse reaction means in practice is diverse and varied. It is simpler to look at some of the symptoms.

Workplace stress can have both physical and mental effects. There is a very long list of symptoms which can manifest, and it is important to note that everyone is an individual so workplace stress can present in a variety of ways. A full list of symptoms can be found on the Bupa page, but a few symptoms are:

Mental/Emotional

  • Complete lack of motivation
  • Feeling more emotional (sensitive or tearful)
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Intense anxiety

Physical

  • Changes to bowel movements (diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Lost sex drive
  • Chest pains

Causes of Workplace Stress

Work is a significant part of everybody’s life. We spend a large portion of our time at or thinking about working. As adults, many people regiment their lives around their work or even define themselves as a person around their chosen job or career path. Work provides satisfaction and a certain amount of pressure which can keep the mind stimulated.

Workplace stress can be caused by many things but one of the key causes is excessive pressure or workload. Imagine that the employee is a table, their workload is the objects that are placed upon the table. Too many items, and the table can buckle and break. Some tables can bear more items and heavier loads than others. Just like people.

Another cause of workplace stress may be the relationships with peers – in particular bullying or workplace harassment. In the image of the table, this is somewhat like someone trying to kick out the legs of the table. Alternatively, managerial styles can be a common cause of workplace stress – imagine someone pressing the items on the table down until the table ultimately collapses.

There could be a single cause of workplace stress or a combination of factors could be working in chorus to create a difficult or untenable work environment. It’s important to remember at this point that stress itself is not an illness, but the effects of stress very much do cause a range of other illnesses.

What can be done to help? How can you alleviate your stresses at work? These tips are not sure-fire stress killers, but they will contribute to making workplace stress more manageable.

Man feeling workplace stress

1. Get requirements clear

One of the many contributing factors to workplace stress is not being clear on what is expected of you. It is naturally very stressful if you are not clear of what you are supposed to be doing. If you find yourself in a position where you feel that you are unsure or unclear of what is expected speak up. Visit your supervisor and take the time to discuss expectation of a task and timelines expected. Do not be afraid to request clarity.

2. Organise!

Whether you are the kind of person who naturally feels the needs to make lists and plan your life in detail or you are a naturally disorganised person, even the minimum of planning of your work time will help. If you feel unable to plan in detail on a daily basis, at the very least you can plan blocks of time for specific activities into your daily plan and have these as recurring reminders.

It is a quick process to lay out a general plan into an online calendar and there are numerous calendar apps both on computer and mobile to help.

Woman walking

3. Lunchtime exercise

No matter where you work, whether you are in an office all day or working in a manual position – getting some form of exercise during your lunch time is an excellent way of relieving stress. A walk is the perfect method! Not only will you get some fresh air and physical exercise, but you will also be stepping away from the work situation. It gives you time to think as well as stretch and breathe.

4. Breathe

5 minutes of deep breathing exercises at intervals throughout the day can make the world of difference to your day. Take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds and release. Do this for up to five minutes can completely restore your calm.

5. Be your own boost

Positive thinking can be a major difference in coping with workplace stress. Elite athletes have used positive thinking for many many years. Indeed, self-affirmations are an increasing trend amongst personal coaches and consultants. They do work though! At times, for all of us our harshest critic can be ourselves. Have a look at this list of daily affirmations for inspiration.

6. Start your day right

Get your morning routine planned. Forget the snooze button, it is the bane of modern existence. Snoozing after waking can be detrimental to your day and ultimately lead to you losing sleep. IF the time you set your alarm for is early enough for you to hit the snooze button, shift the alarm. Breakfast is currently not thought of as the most important meal of the day, but what is important is getting a little fuel into yourself to get going. And factor in a private minute or two to steady yourself for the day ahead.

7. Help others

As odd as it may sound, performing altruistic activities like volunteering can and will improve your mindset. Studies[3] show that those who volunteer or undertake community work actually become more resilient – the belief being that by helping others you are able to contextualise your own problems and difficulties. Also, you will get a good dose of satisfaction from feeling like you are helping others.

So, there you go, 7 tips to help you cope with workplace stress. These are guaranteed by themselves but used in combination and you will see a considerable improvement in your quality of life. However, there may be factors in your workplace that really need changing. Our Mental Health Courses like our Mental Health First Aider course are designed to enable you to help yourself and your peers and to start dialogue on mental health in the workplace. Get in touch to find out more.

We can help

Based in Wolverhampton, Mental Health Midlands is a first-class training provider supporting businesses in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Walsall and the Black Country. We provide recognised course in mental health such as two-day courses to become Mental Health First Aiders to basic entry level half day mental health courses to aid understanding of a misunderstood area. We help businesses to overcome mental health issues and break the stigmas around mental health in the workplace.

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