Let’s face it, we all feel stress at work. And if you don’t, you’re probably too busy to notice it! If nothing else, it might be reassuring to know that you’re not alone.
According to research published by Beyond Blue, most (91%) employees believe mental health in the workplace is important but far fewer (52%) believe their workplaces are actually mentally healthy. This is important because 1 in 5 Australians take time off every year because they feel stressed, anxious or depressed; and this figures is more than twice as high (46%) when workers believe their place of employment is not mentally healthy.
Stress at work, therefore, is an extremely widespread problem; and it’s also an extremely expensive one. According to findings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $11 billion dollars annually!
But stress is not an entirely bad thing; there’s no doubt that stress can motivate and inspire, energise and contribute to more productivity. The challenge is in keeping levels of stress within a certain range, so we can enjoy the aforementioned benefits without feeling defeated or overwhelmed.
The good news is this is very possible. And to help you, I’m happy to proffer my top ten tips for managing stress at work:
- Start with the end in mind. It’s easy, during times of stress, to lose perspective and to forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. But reminding yourself of the end goals, and of your purpose, can provide much needed energy and motivation that will help you cope, and even thrive.
- Take care of your physical health and wellbeing. A wise man once said that we should meditate for half an hour every day; unless we’re busy in which case we should meditate for an hour each day! During busy and stressful periods, it’s even more important to take care of your health with some exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep. Don’t neglect these, especially if you feel you don’t have time for them! Physical exercise and techniques like mindfulness can help reduce cortisol and stress.
- Reach out and ask for help if needed – you don’t need to do it all on your own. Remember, you’re part of a team and there are people who can and want to help you.
- Give – and you’ll then receive. It’s easy to be a bit selfish when we’re under stress but helping others will actually make us feel good, and increase the chances others will, in turn, help us too. So try to make time for others and ultimately, everyone will benefit.
- Focus on what’s going well; not just on what’s not going well. Too often we spend too much of our time focusing on what’s not working or on what’s still to be done. And that’s OK. But it’s also important to focus on what we are achieving and where we are having wins because that can provide crucial positivity to help push through the tough times.
- Use your strengths. Research clearly suggests that the most successful and resilient people spend more time focusing on, and utilising their core strengths. So work out what you’re best at and use these positive attributes as often as you can.
- Break things down in to small, manageable chunks. Big projects will, by definition, seem daunting and stressful; but big projects can always be broken down into smaller steps and doing so indubitably makes things easier to manage.
- Do one thing at a time. Multitasking, despite what many think, rarely helps improve performance or get more done. Instead, focusing on one task at a time makes almost anything simpler and less stressful.
- Minimise distractions. Quite simply, ignore anything that’s not essential or that need not be completed in the near future. The world won’t come to an end; people will understand; and if you can get through this stressful period more effectively you’ll eventually get to those things further down the track.
- Try to have fun. Fun shouldn’t just be kept for quiet or easy times; in fact, fun is a potent stress buster and energiser. So make play and fun part of your work routine and enjoy the benefits that come from a good laugh!
There you go; enjoy the “good stress” and manage the “bad” for more happiness at work…and beyond!