Now more than ever before, mental health is a key priority amongst working professionals.
However, some would argue that the stresses of work are taking more of a toll also.
If your job is causing you stress and anxiety, it could be time to make a change - for the sake of your health.
Read on for the ins and outs of work stress and how to cope with it.
"Work is stressing me out!"
If you find yourself uttering these words on a regular basis, it may be time to take a good hard look at your current work situation.
Whether we like to admit it or not, stress can have a seriously negative effect on our bodies, physically as well as mentally.
Here are a few things to be wary of:
Trying to clear a never-ending workload can be akin to shovelling snow in a blizzard. A 'to-do' list that's impossible to put a dent in is a clear-cut sign that you're struggling under an unrealistic workload. If you find yourself unsuccessfully racing to clear your in-tray on a daily basis, you may be overworked already, or at least on the cusp of taking on more than you can cope with.
An increased workload can naturally lead to longer working hours, particularly when pressure mounts to complete all those tasks you've been assigned. In an effort to keep up with the mounting demands, days become longer, working hours stretch well beyond clock-off time, and the pressure to arrive earlier in the day and make a prompt start can also become greater.
No Social Life
When work takes over your day-to-day life, the first casualty is your social life. Time restrictions and tunnel vision can seriously limit your opportunities to spend time with friends and family. As time goes on, this can lead to strained relationships - which could prove catastrophic, particularly if you have a long-term partner.
Going to bed tired, waking up tired, and feeling tired all day is not a fun way to live: it's a vicious circle that can all too easily turn into a downward spiral.
Physical signs of stress
Stress can take its toll on the body, resulting in not only anxiety but several other physical effects. These can range from insomnia and a lack of focus to high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
Stress can also have a knock-on effect on other areas of your health, leading to detrimental lifestyle choices such as comfort eating, smoking and alcohol abuse.
Other forms of work stress
While overwhelming workloads and looming deadlines tend to be the primary sources of work-related anxiety, it's important to remember that it can come from other places as well.
For example, the morning commute to work can be a daily kettle of stress, unavoidably boiling over when traffic is heavy, public transport is running behind, or an accident has caused a delay.
Similarly, factors related to childcare can indirectly make work more stressful. If your childminder has specified drop-off times, you may only be able to leave as early as those restrictions allow, making it harder to get to work on time. Meanwhile, if your child is ill and you have no choice but to take time off work, this may cause you to fall behind.
Coping with workplace stress
While stress at work can be unavoidable at times, there are a few things you can do to combat it. Changing the way you act and react to these stressful situations, both during the working day and outside of it, can really have a positive impact on your mental well-being and overall state of mind.
Here are a few suggestions to help you lighten the load:
Hit the Gym
Whether you're into fitness or not, it's a scientific fact - exercise is great for mind and body alike.
Exercise not only helps keep your body fit and healthy, it also promotes the release of endorphins that can help trigger positive mental well-being. Meanwhile, it can also help you to relax during times of heightened anxiety.
While stressful scenarios can easily lead to over-eating, binge-drinking or chain-smoking, none of these mental crutches will help the root of the problem.
In fact, if anything, these activities can make matters decidedly worse and can exacerbate the negative health effects of stress.
Try to make a conscious effort to be healthier in your day-to-day life. Healthy dietary and lifestyle choices can limit the effects of stress on your body, particularly when it comes to fatigue.
While it may be easier said than done, switching off from work and taking time to completely decompress can work wonders.
Taking this in the literal sense can be particularly effective, especially for those who have a work phone or work emails sent to their personal phone.
If it's not imperative, try switching off your work phone and/or disabling email notifications during out-of-work hours. You might be surprised by how much this helps!
To kill two birds with one stone, this can easily be coupled with a hobby that you enjoy or time at the gym for an easier transition that truly takes your mind elsewhere.
If you're given 20 hours' worth of work, don't expect to complete it in an 8-hour working day. While meeting an unrealistic demand may seem like a commendable task initially, it can set a precedent that's impossible to maintain.
Continuously working yourself past the point of exhaustion and well into overtime to complete weekly or daily workloads is essentially enabling your superior's unrealistic demands. Don't be afraid to speak up; silently going along with it will only make matters worse.
Stressing out about things you have no control over - such as impending redundancy, limited holiday allowance, et cetera - is futile anxiety. Nothing you do or say is likely to change those things in the immediate future, particularly if promotion and progression are off the table at the moment.
Instead of getting worked up about things you can't change, focus your efforts on the things you can. If you're unhappy about your salary or your job is coming to an end, apply for something new and put your efforts into finding a replacement or something more suitable.
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