Counsellor Sarah Barr looks at how to manage daily stress in the workplace.

“Stress is not what happens to us. It is our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose”-

Maureen Killoran

Stress at work is becoming a more common issue for many people. We strive to find that ‘work/home-life balance’, often getting lost somewhere in between. Usually resulting in guilt as we try to please and keep everyone else happy. This impacts on our mood and has a knock-on effect on other relationships in our lives. Today’s article focuses on stress in the workplace, how to recognise the symptoms and suggests tips that may help reduce some of the stress we face daily.

It is said we spend a lot of our life in the work place, with the average person spending around 99,000 hours at work. That’s 11 and ½ years. That is a long time. Love, like or tolerate our job it’s a big part of our lives. In many cases it defines us as a person.

Like relationships and friendships there will be plenty of ups and downs. We will have productive periods, difficult days and successful spells during our working life. However one state that most of us will face is stress. Stress is described as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

Effects of stress

Stress symptoms can affect our body, our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviour. By recognising common stress symptoms, it can help us to manage them. By ignoring these symptoms it can lead to further health problems such as high blood pressure, migraines and anxiety attacks.

Some causes of workplace stress:

  • Job security.
  • Being bullied or isolated by other staff members.
  • More overtime.
  • Pressure to work at high levels—all the time!
  • Lack of control over how you do your work

The warning signs:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work you do lose confidence and may become angry, irritable, or withdrawn. This can lead you to feeling anxious or depressed. Which will impact on your mental heath.

Other signs and symptoms of excessive stress at work include:

  • Apathy, loss of interest in work.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Fatigue.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Muscle tension or headaches.
  • Stomach problems.
  • Social withdrawal.

Days, weeks and even months of stress will take its toll and affect both our body and mind. Stress can cause mental and emotional problems, increased blood pressure, digestive issues and numerous other conditions. Sadly prolonged stress can even be fatal, as it can trigger sudden cardiac death.

So it’s vital we tackle the problem. I have listed a few suggestions below that may be helpful to you if you are currently dealing with stress at work:

1. Reach out

Share your stress with someone close to you. Talking can be a fantastic way of releasing tension and blowing of steam. Hopefully helping you to regain a sense of calm. If you can, speak to your manager or team leader and tell them how you are feeling. Perhaps even discuss delegating tasks or reducing your workload.

2. Diet and Exercise

When you are overly focused in work sometimes your physical health can be neglected. Taking care of yourself does not mean you need a new lifestyle overhaul and completely change everything. It means focusing and changing small things that are manageable. Such as drinking more water throughout the day will keep you hydrated, or taking a 15 minute walk during your lunch break can both help reduce stress. Take things one step at a time, bit by bit and you will begin to notice a difference in your stress levels both at home and in work.

3. Sleep

Not getting enough sleep at night can affect your productivity, problem-solving skills and your ability to focus during the day. Sleep improves your emotional balance throughout the day and rids you of the heavy brain fog that sometimes can take over. If you find it difficult to fall asleep you could change your bedtime routine. Changes such as no caffeine four hours before sleeping, limiting screen-time, reading or taking a bath with relaxing lavender oil can help.

4. Prioritise and Organise

Simple and practical steps can help you regain control, when stress threatens to overwhelm you. Such steps include creating a balanced schedule that will help balance your home and work life. Plan regular breaks, don’t over commit yourself, drop unnecessary tasks or put them to the bottom of your priority list. Prioritising tasks will give you focus and control. Delegate responsibility if you can and be willing to compromise.

5. Breaking bad habits

Negative thoughts and behavior can increase stress. If you can change these self-defeating thoughts and habits you may be able to reduce your stress levels. By resisting the urge for perfectionism and simply aiming to do your best, will help change your behavior and negative thoughts. Remember you can only do the best you can! Change your negative thinking and instead focus on realistic, alternative thoughts that can be backed up by EVIDENCE.

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life” – Marilu Henner

If stress is interfering with your professional or personal life it’s time to take action. No matter your profession it is always beneficial to have techniques, strategies and support to help lower your stress levels.

Take time and think about what you can do and what you would like to achieve. It may be helpful to contact a counsellor for professional support.

If you’re a manager Apollo Training delivers workshops focused on raising awareness of stress and anxiety in the workplace. They offer training and techniques in managing and reducing stress.

Or perhaps you are starting up a business, if so why not seek support from fellow business owners at Donegal Women In Business Network. Donegal Women in Business Network

Whatever the source of stress, remember that there is help and support available.

Take Care

~ Sarah

New Beginnings Counselling.