We all experience stress from time to time and our careers are one of the biggest factors contributing to our stress levels.
If we don’t prevent or manage stress in the workplace, it can lead to burnout and affect relationships with our colleagues, as well as our friends and family outside of work.
Understanding the stress response
Stress is a normal physical response to situations that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. Your body responds to this in several ways that include both physical and mental adjustments.
This ‘stress response’ is your body’s way of protecting you from the threatening situation; it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. When under physiological or psychological stress, your body reacts by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
These hormones increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, change the digestive process and increase the level of glucose in the blood stream, all allowing you to prepare for‘ fight or flight’.
Your perception of pain is reduced due to the release of endorphins and appetite is reduced to allow you to concentrate on the situation at hand. These adaptations will normally resolve once the threatening situation is over.
Unlike our ancestors whose stressors had a more definitive beginning and ending (hunting and defending), what many of us experience today is longer term stressors, such as long working hours or financial stress.
Sometimes we are experiencing stress and we don’t realise it, particularly in work. For example, working to deadlines, taking on too much or regularly being distracted mid task can trigger our body’s stress response.
These ‘chronic’ stressors, which have long term adaptations on your body, are more risky because abnormal levels of hormones are being produced for longer periods.
This can result in impaired memory and concentration, an increased risk of high cholesterol (due to the release of cortisol in the blood) and therefore coronary heart disease.
Other symptoms of stress include muscle tension, migraines, tension headaches, sleep loss, and changes to your digestion, eating and drinking habits.
If stressors in the workplace are not dealt with or continue for prolonged period of time they can lead to burnout. Furthermore, they can affect your health and your life outside of work.
Ways to manage work-related stress
As the days are getting longer and the weather warmer, it’s the perfect time to take steps to reduce and prevent work-related stress.
Reflect on what’s causing you stress. Is there something specific that’s making you feel this way? Identifying the source of stress can help you find ways to manage it better.
Research has shown that a disorganised workspace can actually lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. On the other hand, having a neat and organised desk can help to improve our productivity and give us a sense of clarity.
Being able to quickly identify what items are on our desk can help to save us time and reduce the amount of stress we experience.
Taking the time to organise your desk, clear away clutter and get rid of unnecessary items can help you stay on top of tasks, think clearly and feel more in control.
Review your to-do list. Write lists, put tasks and deadlines on a calendar, use sticky notes – whatever works for you to stay in control of your tasks. Prioritise the most important tasks first and you will benefit from a feeling of accomplishment once they are complete.
Delegate any tasks you can if you are feeling swamped and have people who can help you. Personally, at the end of the day, I like to create a to-do list for the next day, so I know exactly what I have on. Doing this always helps me to switch off, as I know everything is written down. So, I’m not worrying that I might forget to complete a task.
Take regular breaks. Try to step away from your desk every couple of hours. Even if it is just to get a drink. I was recently reading about someone who every hour takes a minute just to pause and how doing so helps them not to get stressed and focus better for the rest of the hour.
With the weather starting to improve go for a walk on your lunch break. Getting outside into the fresh air will help you to relax and refocus for the afternoon ahead.
Incorporating physical activity into your day can help you release tension and clear your mind of any worries. Also, it helps to prevent disease and improves the immune system, boosting energy levels and improving sleep too.
A brisk walk in, running, yoga or playing five-a-side with your mates – any exercise will help.
There are plenty of ways to get moving and many of them won’t cost you a penny. Go to your local park or check out exercise tutorials on Youtube.
Spending quality time in nature is great for your mental health and exercising releases endorphins giving you a natural high. Reducing stress, balancing your mood and helping you feel more positive whilst absorbing Vitamin D.
If you work from home, go for a walk or sit outside at the end of the end, to create separation from work and home to help you switch off.
Rest and Get Plenty of Sleep
Have a set sleep routine and try to get between 7 to 9 hours sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep negatively affects our mood, memory and judgement. If you struggle sleeping try having a bath before bed, reading a book or listening to music or calming sounds.
Book Annual Leave – Make Plans
Arrange something to look forward to outside of the workplace and book your annual leave in advance. Having plans to do something different outside of your day-to-day routine, gives you something to look forward to and can make stressful days easier to manage.
Whether it’s catching up with friends, going on holiday, ticking an activity off your bucket list or a day to do the DIY project you’ve been putting off – it all counts.
Despite being busy at work I enjoy this time of year, as I know my summer holiday is booked and just around the corner.
Take five and breathe
Taking a few slow, deep breaths can help you get your heart rate under control and lower your feelings of stress. Mindfulness or meditation are good too. There are many great apps out there like Headspace and Calm.
Take your mind off your stressful situation by tuning into something you enjoy. For example, watch your favourite TV show, listen to music or podcast, DIY, sewing or learn something new. This will give your mind time to rest.
Focus on the little things
When life seems stressful, take time to focus on the little things that make you feel happy. Each day reflect and pick out three things you are grateful for that day. This will help you focus on the positives and help you feel in the moment. Remember to be kind to yourself.
If you are struggling with stress at work or finding it difficult to juggle work and other commitments, speak to your manager or HR. They might be able to remove some work from you or make adjustments to support your work-life balance.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you’re struggling to manage with stress. Talking to a counsellor or therapist can help you develop strategies to cope with stress in the long-term. Some employers offer Employee Assistance Programmes, which allow you to access counselling sessions.
By managing stress, you can become more productive and successful in your work. It also creates a healthier, happier working environment for everyone.
How the Eventus Recruitment Group can help
If your team has too much work on, we are here to help you find the right people who can help. We recruit for all job functions and levels in the legal and finance sectors.
Always, we tailor our services to meet your individual recruitment needs and provide you with honest advice to enhance your recruitment and retention strategies.
Whether you are looking permanent or temporary staff, we can help. Contact us for a confidential discussion at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01524 34400.
Written by Emma Guy, marketing manager at the Eventus Recruitment Group.