How to Combat Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is an ever constant. With impending deadlines and increasing targets to meet, this level of high-energy focus activity has become the norm for most professionals.

Last year’s study by the Economic and Social Research Institute, found that stress levels in Ireland had more than doubled, from eight to 17 per cent, between 2010 and 2015.

Stress can be broadly defined as one person’s reactions to a changing stimulus in their environment that needs adjusting to.

Stress is quite normal; the physical, mental and emotional responses are part of your survival instinct. It keeps us alert throughout developing situations and challenges. Yet, when we do not get a break between changing situations, or every-day work challenges – we become overworked by our thoughts and emotions.

We begin to associate the stress reaction negatively, and get into ‘distress’.

In addition, when anxiety levels increase over the individual’s threshold and remain high, this creates a critical flash point for many individuals. This will manifest in physical such as headaches, stomach pains, weight loss, and high blood pressure. Your mental health can also be affected in the forms of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression, which are all very serious side effects.

Flag Your Work Stressors

Unrealistic Deadlines & Workloads: We have all had that last-minute task or projects placed upon your teetering workload. Moreover, exposure to this type of stressful challenges is beneficial. You learn more about yourself and grow resilient to a fast work pace. Yet, when unrealistic deadlines continuously loom, and these ‘priority’ last-minute projects become the norm, you lose the sense of control over your work ethic. A sense of inability or lacking to cope will surface soon enough. You slip into the reactive state of working, which in itself is inefficient, but also exhausting.

Negative Colleague Behaviour/Intimidation: The workplace is a melting pot of personalities, perspectives and professional motivations. No workplace is without its own brand of conflict culture. Yet, when professional peers become intimidating or behave inappropriately, stress will be the initial reflective response. Continuous passive aggressive behaviour and tactics, psychological abuse, bullying and harassment will invoke the negative distress and quickly lead to

Emotional demands: Being at the front-line at a Support Desk, customer interaction delivers its fair share of stress. In the era of shorter SLAs and higher customer expectation, it is inevitable to face high-emotion situations with customers that can cause stress-levels to increase.

Long working hours: Listen up, the working week is 37.5 hours. For those working over 40 hours per week were twice as likely to experience job stress and experience work burnout. There’s a reason for work/life balance occurring

Manage Your Stress

Experiencing stress is inevitable. Yet, it is one of life’s accelerant that should not be ignored or avoided. As mentioned above, natural levels of stress are conducive for work and life growth. To a certain extent, people facing enduring periods of stress have in fact reported building resilience and a set of coping skills. Here are a few key best practice tips that can implemented whether you are currently in a stressful period or ahead of a future situation:

Take some deep breaths

Deep breathing can help to relax the body and calm you down. Taking deep breaths can help you to focus on what you are about to do. You should try deep breathing before an exam, game, job interview or before going on stage.

Breathe in slowly for 6 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds and slowly release the breath across 6 seconds. Do that 4 times in a row while noting where your breath is sitting in your body.

Preparation is key

You can be pragmatic about certain stressful situations. If you know you will be collaborating with a toxic colleague, rather than react to the situation, you can prepare your responses. Try to come up with strategies to combat that you can foresee before they arise, and

Avoid catastrophising 

Understanding the reflexes of our emotions can be a powerful management of emotions. Taking a leaf from the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy book, instead of predicting future situations, diffuse the stress in your mind and rationalise the situation.

The majority of stress comes from thinking about future stressful situations. Actions cause reactions. Reactions for human come in the form of thoughts. Thoughts will then dictate what type of emotion you will feel in a particular situation. When you turn the thought or reaction around, rationalise the action and dissect it and ask was there any malicious intent to the act? This breaks down our conditioned reaction to any situation and helps us grasp our emotions. Once we change the thought, we then change the emotion. It takes some practise but we are not prisoners of our emotions.

Physical Movement

Yeah, you have heard it before but we will keep it saying it! Exercise is a healthy way of relieving stress. Exercising in moderate amounts can boost endorphins dramatically and decrease instances of stress. The ability to naturally conduct ‘happy hormones’ will give an inordinate amount of self-autonomy, which in turn can help get a grip on the sometimes hopeless feeling of anxiety and stress.

Speak to someone

A problem shared is a problem halved. Moreover, the majority of stress can be alleviated when you speak with a close friend or family member outside of the workplace. If the situation or your mental state is more precarious, counselling is a wonderful channel to talk through your problems. The act of venting often relieves the immediate physical symptoms of pressure and stress.

Leave

Finally, if all else fails, if you have exhausted all your options and you are exhausted from a stressful situation, then just leave. Even setting a goal of leaving your job within a certain period or setting small goals to achieve a change in position can dramatically reduce internal stress.

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