Work-related stress has been growing rapidly in recent years – now being the most common work illness in the UK. Over 500,000 workers suffered from work stress, anxiety or depression in 2016/17 and these numbers aren’t on the decline. If you’re struggling with stress, there are ways to practice stress management in the workplace. From tracking your stressors to being more organised to making sure you’re maintaining a work-life balance, there are simple ways of coping with stress at work.
Common Causes of Stress at Work
It’s important to know the causes of work-related stress so you can understand what areas need improvement. The most common in the UK are:
- Low salaries
- Excessive workload
- Limited opportunities for growth
- Unclear expectations
- Pressure to hit targets
- Bullying or harassment
- Inefficient management
- A poor physical working environment
Signs of Stress at Work
Symptoms of stress can be physical, psychological or behavioural. If you are experiencing any of these on a regular basis you are likely to be suffering and need to take steps in reducing stress at work.
- Stomach-ache and gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation
- Fatigue and sleeping difficulties
- Mood swings – irritability and pessimism
- Depression and anxiety
- Altered eating habits – eating unhealthily or not enough
- Isolation and disinterest
- Problems with relationships
How to Manage Stress at Work
- Track your stressors Keep a journal and write down when you notice you’re becoming more stressed. You may be able to find patterns and can then work out what to change in your routine, environment or behaviour. Make sure you remark on what may have triggered the stress, how you responded to the situation (were there any physical symptoms?) and what you did to cope. Having these diary entries is crucial when looking back and learning about your stress patterns, and it can also be extremely helpful if you’re seeing a doctor or therapist.
- Talk to someone If you’re feeling overwhelmed, voicing your concerns can help manage stress. It can feel daunting to admit that you’re stressed or having trouble, but everyone deals with it at some point and a good workplace should understand that. Work with your manager, a team member or someone in HR to come up with solutions. Maybe there’s something simple that can be delegated to take the pressure off? Maybe you can take some time off, alter your working hours or get time management training? Even if your colleagues can’t help with a specific problem, you may feel better just talking about how you’re feeling. If you’re still struggling, get support from outside sources like a therapist or counsellor.
- Be organised Disorganisation can be at the heart of a stressful situation, so write a to-do list at the start of the week. Prioritise your tasks so that you focus on the most important ones first. Be realistic about how long tasks take, delegate when possible, ask for more support if you need it and set mini deadlines along the way to keep you on track. There are always periods where you may have to work extra hours, but organisation will minimise your overtime. Being more efficient lets you manage your time and meet deadlines, ultimately reducing work stress.
- Take a lunch break Make sure you spend time away from your desk. Take at least half an hour at lunch with regular breaks throughout the day to stretch your legs. If you can, take an exercise class or simply go for a walk outside. Getting out of the office at midday can be a useful distraction and cause you to switch out of work mode for a short while. Even chatting with colleagues over a cup of tea can help. These mini-breaks are not only beneficial for stress management; they also boost endorphins and increase your physical health!
- Use your commute wisely If you take public transport to work, it can be easy to use this time to catch up on emails and get a head start before you make it to the office. Instead, use this time for yourself – read a book or watch your favourite Netflix show. If you drive, listening to music or podcasts can be a great way to escape. Having time out is essential for stress management and preserving a healthy lifestyle away from work.
- Establish boundaries Maintaining a hobby outside of work can provide the best kind of stress relief. It’s important to create a work-life balance, so make a pact to turn your phone off during dinner and limit email checking once you’re home. Disconnecting and focusing on non-work activities will decrease your stress and remind you of the bigger picture.
Volunteering at an association such as the Army Cadet Force allows you to shape the lives of young people and contribute to something bigger than yourself. Go on new adventures, learn new skills, meet new people and use your skills to help others. See more benefits of volunteering at the ACF.
Carrying out these steps should help you manage work related stress. If you’re still finding things tough, then speak to somebody. Whether that’s a doctor, your manager or a therapist, there are always ways to change and reduce your stress levels. Seek support from loved ones and talk to a career counsellor if your efforts haven’t been enough.
If you’re interested in becoming a part of a community, volunteering with us can add skills to your CV and means you’re helping the development of young people. Learn more about what we do at the Army Cadet Force.