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Every April in the UK is Stress Awareness Month, which aims to break stigmas, and get us talking about questions like “what causes stress?” and “how do I cope with stress?”. Stress, unfortunately, is a natural part of everyday life for most of us, but that doesn’t mean it needs to overcome us. Here, we’ve put together 5 tips to help reduce stress in the workplace.
Stress itself isn’t a mental illness, but it can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. If you think you might be experiencing depression or anxiety there are organisations you can talk to. For a list of these organisations, visit mind.co.uk.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits, exercise can have a genuinely positive impact on your mental health, too. It’s thought that physical activity can cause chemical changes in the brain that help to combat mental health issues such as mild depression and anxiety, which can be linked to stress.
The NHS recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise – such as fast walking or cycling – per week. This should be split across several days, ideally in 30-minute chunks – conveniently, the length of a lunch break!
Next time you’re heading for lunch, instead of sitting at your desk or hanging around in the canteen, get on your feet and head out of work! Not only will the exercise help, but getting away from your workstation for a while will help remove the work-related stressors from your mind.
Take a break
You may have designated break times throughout the day, but if you’re blankly staring at your next task, unsure of where to start due to stress, nothing’s going to get done anyway. The suggestion here isn’t to completely remove yourself from the work environment. Rather, aim to do a short task that requires little mental effort. It could be heading to the bathroom, walking somewhere to ask a colleague a question, or going to make yourself a coffee. Providing yourself a short respite from whatever task was causing stress in the first place can help you to put it in perspective.
Depending on your line of work, you may not have the benefit of being able to head somewhere else, which is where this next tip can come in handy…
Make a plan for your work
According to a CIPD survey, one of the biggest causes of stress at work is an employee’s workload. A seemingly insurmountable pile of work can seem daunting, but having an action plan can make things a lot easier. This certainly won’t work for everyone, but breaking jobs down into small, manageable tasks can help you establish a timeline for your work, essentially giving you a light at the end of the tunnel!
Remember, you’re also more likely to succeed in a task if you set a SMART target. That is to say, a task must be:
Keep a clean workspace
Again, this won’t necessarily work for everyone, but the sheer visual imposition of a mountain of paperwork, for example, is bound to create stress. Take some time to organise your workspace, keeping only essential items around in order to help you complete your work.
Similarly, one of the biggest culprits of stress can be an overflowing email inbox. An endless list of irrelevant CCs and BCCs, general office chatter, or just plain out of date emails can be a visual stressor. Take a few moments to clean out your inbox – create a folder for emails that definitely need following up, if necessary
Don’t forget to talk
One of the biggest problems surrounding mental health is stigma, and lack of open conversation. Feeling stressed is natural, and everyone experiences a bout of it now and again. One of the worst things you can do when feeling stressed is to isolate yourself. Take the time to reach out to managers or colleagues – share your experiences, and you’ll likely find that the people you work with have similar stories.
If you think your workplace could benefit from stress awareness, here at New Leaf Health we offer workplace awareness days that tackle issues surrounding stress. Our Pressure Management Awareness Day facilitates interactive activities and small group discussions for both managers and employees in order to raise awareness, and to set out effective methods for managing stress in a healthy way.
For more information on this service, please click here.