Stress-related illnesses, which include stress-induced fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and depression, are on the rise globally. To survive the technological advancement and exponential industry growth of the age we live in, we must adopt new strategies to help us change the way we work. Work-related stress is the product of an unbalanced lifestyle and unhealthy work habits, which are resultant of the stressful working conditions and toxic organisational cultures.
It is normal to experience stress due to deadlines or demands. Every person who has ever held a job or role felt work pressure and stress at some point. Every job has its own demands, which may be stressful at times. Even when you enjoy the work that you do, there are still some functions or aspects of the job that are less enjoyable and that is normal. On the long haul, however, work should not induce chronic stress. This is when work-related stress becomes detrimental to your overall well-being.
Unfortunately, ignoring the red flags of chronic stress in the workplace is all too common, sneaking up on us without us even noticing it. Stress at work does not just stay at work; sadly, we are likely to bring it home. This can further contribute to difficulty sleeping, gastrointestinal problems, lack of focus, headaches and much more. If chronic stress is left unattended, it can lead to more serious health concerns such as depression, obesity, burnout and heart problems.
It is important to understand that stress itself is not good or bad for us: it is our perception and interpretation of stress that makes it so. Read on to find out how to manage work-related stress.
Understand your stress.
To manage the stress around us, we must first find its root cause. Keep a journal to track and measure your stress levels. Identify when stress occurs and what happens in those moments. Was it a conversation with a colleague? Was it a deadline for a big project? What were you feeling? What was the environment around you? What happened after you experienced this stressor? Did you raise your voice? Did you leave the situation and walked out? Take a moment to reflect your stressful experiences and observe yourself in that situation.
Once you have established how the stressors are triggered and identified your responses to them that affect you negatively, reframe your understanding towards a positive response. Accepting that stress is a part of life is fundamental; understanding that there are positive ways to manage it is even more important.
Sometimes, we deal with stress in a way that is not healthy, such as lashing out on a colleague or binge-eating. Next time you feel stressed, practise some healthy responses such as doing some exercise or taking a few deep breaths before responding. If you are working from home, maybe a quick breathing or yoga session can do the trick. If you are in the office, perhaps just stepping out for a walk or grabbing a coffee can help slow down the emotional response that can potentially be detrimental to your health and career.
In the corporate world, embedding productivity within a well-being framework is possible. For example, at Bessern, Dubai, we work with individuals within organisations, providing them with tools and strategies to manage their stress levels as well as help them build productive habits that prevent chronic stress from taking over. These small daily hacks really make a difference to thrive at work, with measurable impact on their performance and personal well-being.
Dealing with Stress in the Workplace
I know we hear these words over and over again: make time to rest, recharge your energy, get enough sleep, and similar pieces of advice, but this proves to be one of the most essential aspects of managing stress. You only have one body. It needs rest. You are not a machine, and as much as some of us wish we could work tirelessly without consequences, the body and mind need the necessary downtime to function at its optimum. When at work, even taking a few minutes to listen to some music or a podcast to distract your mind a bit can do the trick. Perhaps picking up the phone and calling a loved one could be another way to do a quick recharge.
In the world of digital access, especially now that we will likely be spending more time remote working in the near future, it is easy to get caught up in work and stay connected way beyond our working hours. If you don’t make time to disconnect, it will be easy for chronic stress to sneak up on you. The action of disconnecting from your work on evenings and weekends is a preventive tool to fight chronic stress.
Make rules to establish limits. For example, avoid checking and opening work emails after a certain time of the day. Another example would be to keep your phone away from you at dinner and in the evenings. If you have a separate work phone, then completely keep it out of sight post working hours and weekends (unless it is a rare case of special projects or something similar, use your own discretion here). Keep in mind that work never ends, but your health deteriorates. By creating boundaries, you are not only taking care of your overall energy and well-being, but also spending uninterrupted time with your loved ones.
Talk to your manager.
Employee well-being is essential to the long-term success of companies and organisations, as recent studies on the impact of work stress on employees and their performance have shown. If a company’s employees are exhausted and stressed, they are not likely to bring their best selves to work, consequently making the business suffer.
Be open to having a conversation with your manager about your current challenges and stressors at work. The goal is not to complain but merely raise awareness of your current situation and work on a plan together to manage the stress and prevent it when possible. Perhaps your company can offer some tools and strategies, such as time management training or support from professional coaches or colleagues. Speaking up on work conditions that are harming employee morale and performance can create an overall healthier office environment for all through people-focused management decisions.
It’s normal to feel anxious and stressed. Know that you are not alone when it comes to work stress. It is perfectly acceptable to share your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, colleague, clergy or your physician or mental health provider. Companies provide their employees with the support they need during stressful times, and we see the difference it makes in organisations. You don’t have to do it alone!
About the Author
Managing Partner at Bessern and Talent Development Specialist
Elena is an entrepreneur, talent development specialist, and education advocate with a deep interest in neuro and behavioural sciences. She is known for her ability to drive change within individuals and organisations that are looking to reach their potential and maintain their competitive edge in the business world. She has started her career in higher education, having worked across various institutions, departments and regions. In her recent years, she dove into business and joined Bessern, as well as founded a learning and developing consultancy, as well as several other projects within the talent development arena.
She is an engaging skilled trainer and talent development specialist, credited with combining operations, education, and international expertise to design and deliver programs for diverse audiences. Elena has a strong passion for L&D, promoting creative and engaging workplaces and all about optimising performance through the development of others. As a career coach, Elena has over ten years of experience working individuals across different generations, supporting them in achieving their professional and personal goals.