“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James
To mark World Mental Health Awareness Week, we thought we’d shine a light on the sensitive subject of stress.
I get stressed at work. There I said it. I’m a bit wary that I did to be honest. It’s something that could be used against me. Now I feel anxious. You’re meant to be strong in the work place – aren’t you?
Fact of the matter is work place stress is not uncommon and I (to paraphrase Michael Jackson) am not alone.
One in five people in the UK take at least one day off a year due to stress, and worryingly 93% of those (according to the mental health charity Mind) lie about the reason for their absence.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2014/15, 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. That's 40% of all work-related illness.
It feels like stating the obvious that good mental health is essential yet the issue of talking about stress and anxiety in the work place (anywhere really) is still very much taboo. It’s easier to say you have a broken arm than saying you need help or to take time out for emotional wellbeing.
Don’t get me wrong, a little stress can be a good thing. For me a little added pressure and a tight deadline helps to motivate and focus the mind like nothing else but when it becomes excessive it can lead to persistent ongoing and unhealthy work-related stress.
According to the NHS, stress symptoms include a pounding heart or palpitations, a dry mouth, headaches, odd aches and pains and loss of appetite for food and sex. Although I’ve never gone off food but that’s another article….
From an employer’s perspective, the impact a member of the team’s poor mental health can have is significant and can result in diminished morale for the individual and the wider team and lower productivity levels.
If you’re an employer click here to access tips from Mind on how to look after the mental health of your staff.
For the individual, there are steps that can be taken, to try to manage stress in the workplace. Here are some of the tips that work for us.
1. Take Control
It’s important for you to take control and not to remain passive.The first step is acknowledging you are stressed and then to start to work towards a solution to help to tackle the issue.
The power of a to do list can’t be underestimated in helping you to take control – and if you order it in list of priorities it can (to use an overused phrase) transform your life.I’d be lost without mine.It’s also a useful tool when I need to negotiate with my manager about taking on new projects.
Plus, accept you will always have tasks on your to do list – it will never go away but you can manage and control it.
2. Just say no
Don’t be afraid to say no – if you have too much on and can’t absorb any more work then you need to say so. This isn’t about being obstructive and unhelpful it’s about having honest adult conversations.
Your manager can then work with you to realign priorities and to come up with a solution. You might think that saying yes to everything will earn you brownie points but you will burn out and in the end risk over promising and under delivering - which in itself is not a good long term strategy for career progression.
3. Talk to someone
It really is good to talk – be that someone who you work with or outside of your organisation. They can give you a fresh perspective and it’s very likely if you open up to them they will share their own experiences of stress and what has worked for them.
It’s also really important time to see friends when you feel stressed and to take time out to relax and have fun – laughter is a great stress buster and taking the time out can help you to put work issues into perspective.
4. Take a Break
Make sure you take a lunch break away from your desk every day. Taking a short walk and a change of scenery can really benefit productivity and morale.
Also take some me time – time out for you.Ear mark at least once a week where you leave on time and do something you enjoy that evening.My day is a Tuesday and I put a post it on my computer that reads LOTT = Leave on Time Tuesday.It really works for me and I should start using it on a Thursday as well….
5. Be Active
Exercise won’t make stress disappear, but it will reduce some of it’s intensity, clear your thoughts and let you deal with your worries calmly.
These are just some initial ideas but you can read other tips from the British Health Foundation on tackling stress at work here.
If you find the stress is persistent and our tips don’t work we would advise talking to your doctor who may refer you for more specialised help.
If though you know the stress is caused because you are not in the right working environment for you then it’s time to start seriously considering a change of work place address.
We advertise thousands of jobs on WMJobs and we might just have the perfect role for you.
Wishing you good mental health.
The WMJobs team