It is very common to experience work-related stress.
Whether it’s communicating with multiple stakeholders, managing a heavy workload and not being able to complete tasks before deadlines, or dealing with a personality clash with another team member, high levels of workplace stress over the long-term can negatively influence your physical and emotional health.
Work-related stress can have a detrimental effect on your work as well as your personal life, and may lead to anxiety, depression and other significant health-related problems.
Clearly it’s important to safeguard our mental and physical wellbeing, by having at our disposal an array of strategies for managing stress in the workplace!
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s natural reaction to a challenge. It is linked to a specific situation, threat or change in the environment and is usually temporary. You may generally feel stressed about something happening in the present or very near future – such as an upcoming presentation, a deadline, or difficult interaction with a co-worker.
Workplace stress activates the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system, which results in a range of physiological and emotional changes. These are meant to prepare us to deal with the challenges we may face, stemming from the ‘survival’ brain. Below is a list of some of the physical and emotional reactions which are frequently triggered by work-related stress.
- Startled reactions;
- Dry mouth;
- Lump in throat;
- Muscle tension and headaches;
- Memory and concentration problems;
- Compulsive behaviours;
- Mood swings;
- Lack of motivation;
- Low sex drive.
Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace
Work life balance: It is important to balance time spent with your family versus time spent at work. If possible, work out how many hours you can spend for work and hours for your family, friends and self-care.
Try not to think about the mountain of washing or cleaning waiting for you back at home, while you’re at work; by the same token, when out with your family or friends, redirect your mind from the KPIs you have to deal with at work tomorrow. Enjoy the present moment!
Time management: When deadlines shift and you’re dealing with multiple KPIs, projects and responsibilities, it requires making decisions about how you will allocate your time, and what to tackle first. You may struggle to focus on one task, because you are worried about other duties you are expecting to complete on the same day. It is important to discuss your concerns in your supervision with your line manager, as well as try to establish a system that helps you to keep track of your calendar and to-do list.
Social Participation: Participating in meetings, a team building exercise or going out for dinner with your colleagues or close friends may help with managing stress in the workplace. If however these activities make you feel uncomfortable, you could try them on a smaller scale, for example, by speaking with a smaller group of co-workers or just a couple of individuals.
Avoid Perfectionism: While you may be keen to do your best, remember you don’t have to be perfect – or do a perfect job – in every situation. Nothing and nobody are perfect, so it’s an unrealistic standard to set for yourself (or others) and you are setting yourself up for failure and creating undue pressure. “Progressionism not perfectionism” is a much better way to go.
Exercises and Meditation: Physical activities such as running, jogging, boxing and aerobics are a great way to relieve a build up of stress and tension.
During meditation, you focus your attention on the present, eliminating the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind, enhancing both your physical and emotional wellbeing..
Seek professional help: If you are struggling with managing stress at work, counselling may help. It gives you a chance to talk it out with an objective party, as well as learn some new strategies for managing stress in the workplace.
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.
- Coping with stress at work: Working hard should not be confused with overworking at the expense of relationships and physical health. (2021). Retrieved 11 May 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-workplaces/work-stress.
- Stress. (2021). Retrieved 12 May 2021, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress
- 14 Ways to Manage Work Stress and Avoid Burnout. (2021). Retrieved 11 May 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/work-stress#recognize-it