How to manage stress at work
The UK Health and Safety Executive of 2011/12 states 428,000 people reported work-related stress at levels that were making them ill, That’s 40% of all work-related illness.
The American Psychological Association estimated that job stress costs U.S. businesses more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and healthcare costs. Another US survey of 2013 states that 27% of women and 22% of men cite high work-related stress levels as a top reason to leave their current job.
We live in tough times, while some pressure at work can be motivating, when it becomes excessive it leads to work-related stress. Psychologist and science journalist Dr Daniel Goleman wrote recently, “Without rest, our brains grow more depleted. The signs of a brain running on empty include, for instance, distractedness, irritability, fatigue, and finding yourself checking Facebook when you should be doing your work.” Have you experienced any of the above lately? Do you have a tired brain trying to pack 60 hours of work into a 48 hour week? Time to wind down read this post and put the ‘brakes’, on the speed you are travelling at work.
The biggest myth in many a mind is the idea of a ‘full up’ unrelenting eight hour day every day. In reality, if you plan your day and take ‘breathing breaks’ in between work, say at the rate of one every two to three hours, you will notice productivity go up. The reason, our concentration lasts about 90 minutes at a stretch after that we begin to wander. Begin by being aware of yourself and when you begin to tire from work, place your ‘breathing brakes’ accordingly. After a refreshing little break, you will be able to focus better on the job at hand.
Being part of the modern office workforce means that there will be many interruptions while you work. The average worker is interrupted seven times an hour totalling up to 2.1 hours a day. Emails, phone calls, pop-ins by colleague and boss alike, all work towards distracting us. Train yourself to focus on the task at hand is, making it known to your fellow workers that only matters that cannot wait is brought to you. As for the rest schedule a time of the day when you will deal with them. In a while your colleagues will understand your ‘priority principle’ and you will notice the tasks you set out to achieve each morning get done on time.
One of the largest causes of work related stress comes from taking on more than we can handle. When your boss comes to you with an additional job to be done do you say ‘yes sir’ without thinking. Time to rework that, before giving the YES or NO answer calculate how long you need to deal with your current workload, see if you have any extra capacity. Only if you feel that you have the extra bandwidth take on the new task. American Life coach Suzy Greaves says, “I’m constantly challenging clients who say they have no choice but to overwork,” she says.”I coach people to become empowered and believe they have a choice.” Saying yes can win you brownie points in the short term, but if you take on too much and fail to deliver, it can be a disastrous long-term strategy.
Whenever you feel stressed or overwhelmed, angry and irritated at work take out a few minutes to breathe and calm yourself down, meditate. Three minutes of watching your breath restores a sense of balance. Begin by sitting at your desk in a comfortable position. Breathing in through your mouth pursing your lips to reduce the size of your mouth.That way your tongue will fold on the sides like a shovel. It’s called the ‘refrigerated breath’; a trick taught me by a yogi well versed in ancient Indian life systems, effective in ‘cooling you down’. Once you have done a few of these, close your eyes and breathe easy, watch your breath as it travels down to your lungs and back again. Do this for a couple of minutes and calm and balance and a new freshness returns.
I’ll wrap this up and add a parting shot, never carry your work home. What is in the office stays in office, any work-related stress is to be left at work. There is a life after work that you must enjoy after all you work very hard for it.