Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Stress in small doses can help you to stay motivated and alert, it can help you to focus on the job in hand in order to meet your goals and face new challenges. But stress can also make you feel overwhelmed with lack of ability to cope, even more so in this pandemic landscape.
Some things which cause stress in the workplace are completely out of your control, such as:
- Job security
- Pressure to meet expectations
- Increasing workload due to staff shortages
- Lack of support
One thing which has concerned many of us at some point in our working lives is job security. The worry of losing your job as your employer is forced to make cutbacks due to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic is currently affecting a vast amount of people. According to HMRC, in June 2020, 1.14 million employers had made at least one CJRS claim. The financial security of Furlough also came with the worry of job security, would there be a job to return to? It has been very worrying for people who are employed and of course for people who are self employed, especially for those whose businesses have been forced to close due to government lockdown restrictions.
For those of us lucky enough to be working through these trying times, the added pressures which have arisen from the pandemic, such as covering a larger workload due to staff cutbacks and shortages, working from home around family life, trying to juggle work with childcare and homeschooling, the list goes on. We just need to find a happy medium to keep that stress at bay!
So what are the signs of stress? What can you look out for, to make sure it doesn’t spin out of control?
- Feeling anxious and irritated
- Mood swings – Rollercoaster of emotions
- Sleep disorders and deprivation such as insomnia
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Headaches/Migraines and muscle aches
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of job satisfaction
- Not wanting to socialise
- Increasing your alcohol consumption
You don’t have to have all of the above to be stressed, even one of these symptoms on its own can have an impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
How do I take back control?
If you notice the signs early it’s easier to get back in control again, the longer you let it go unnoticed the harder it will be to get back on track.
Talk – Don’t keep things bottled up. Talk about how you’re feeling to friends and family. Don’t think that it’s not right to burden people with your problems, a problem shared is a problem halved! It’s often a relief once you have spoken about your feelings, and sometimes when you have aired your issues they don’t seem as bad as they originally did. Plus people like to feel needed and will be pleased that you have asked them for advice.
Ask your colleagues about their workload. Maybe the workload isn’t being evenly distributed, your colleagues may have time on their hands to ease your workload, they may be pleased to offer their assistance. If they are as busy as you, then speak to your line manager, they may not realise the pressure you are all under to get things done, they may be able to help you to prioritise your workload.
Time Management – Time management is a skill that’s for sure but once you have mastered it, your life will be so much easier! If you have your own business it can be difficult to delegate at first, worrying that you’re handing over the responsibility to someone else. By doing this though it will help you to concentrate on the important things in your business that need your attention. If you are employed then make sure your workload is prioritised, ask your manager to let you know what’s important and what things need to be addressed first. Having a list of priorities will enable you to plan better. Make a to-do list in priority order, Rome wasn’t built in a day after all! Plan out your day or even map out your week ahead. This will give you an end goal, you can then create little steps in order to get to your targets. Taking it one step at a time will make your workload more manageable rather than trying to climb mountains, as this will just increase your stress levels and make your end goal unachievable. Once you start ticking off the jobs on your to-do list you will feel a sense of accomplishment which will give you further motivation, relieving that stress. This will also help you to decide whether you have the capacity to take on more work, don’t agree to take on more work when you’re already struggling. Have the strength to say no!
Take regular breaks – You may feel like you don’t have time for a break but this is the worst thing you can do when you’re feeling stressed. Taking time away from your desk will give you a better perspective once you return to your desk. Try and get out in the fresh air and take a walk. Exercise increases the oxygen levels to your brain which makes you more alert meaning you can concentrate much better. Studies have shown that taking a walk improves our mood and frame of mind, which reduces stress levels. Even walking around inside whilst on the phone helps by stretching out those muscles so you don’t feel as tense.
Sleep – Ensure you get the best night’s sleep possible. Don’t work late into the night, it may be tempting when working from home but lack of sleep can have a serious impact on your stress levels, causing sleep deprivation which then becomes a vicious circle. Research has shown that people who go to bed at a regular time get a better night’s sleep, without interruption. Late nights affect your sleep pattern which then means you struggle to get out of bed in the morning. But early risers who have had a good night’s sleep have higher energy levels and have a better perspective on the day ahead.
Don’t rush – If you have to commute to work then ensure you get up in time to do everything you need to do before leaving the house. Commuting to work can be very stressful and when you have been rushing around to leave the house and you’re stressed already then the traffic will only make it all worse! Try to keep your morning routine as calm as possible, you don’t want to be stressed before you even arrive at work!
Eat Healthy – Eating healthy is not just good for our physical health but it also affects our mental health too. Eating fatty foods can have a negative impact on your mood and energy levels, eating the right foods can keep those stress levels at bay.
Work Life Balance – Don’t lose sight of what’s important, and that’s you! Make time to enjoy your life, as it’s not just all about work. With more people now working from home it can be very tempting to work all hours! Taking time out to have fun and be with the people that you love and make you happy will help to take that stress away. We all need time to wind down and put those worries aside. If you live alone, it’s easier said than done with the current lockdown restrictions but you still need some ‘chill out’ time, whether that’s having a nice hot bath, chilling on the sofa binge watching Netflix, or taking a stroll with your dog, we all need that precious time for our mental health.
We all experience stress at some point in our lives, but having the ability to recognise that you’re stressed and taking those steps early to get back in control is key to keeping those stress levels to a minimum.
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