How to beat work stress once and for all
You would struggle to find a single person of working age in Australia who hasn’t experienced work stress at some point. We’re now at the point where we seem to treat it as a joke rather than the serious problem that it is. We’ve convinced ourselves that feeling stressed at work is just part and parcel of having a job. But behind the laughs and jokes, the truth is that work stress is having an extremely detrimental effect on our mental health.
More than 7,200 Australian workers make claims as a result of work-related mental health conditions, accounting for 6% of overall compensation claims. Approximately one in five people admit to having taken time off work due to stress and mental health. However, some mental health professionals argue that the true figure is in fact much larger and that people are often embarrassed to admit that stress has overwhelmed them.
What are the signs of work stress?
The signs of work stress can manifest themselves in a multitude of ways. Heads Up, an organisation developed by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance and beyondblue has created a list of the ways in which work-related stress might present itself. The more outwardly noticeable physical indicators include:
- Chest pain or a pounding heart;
- Reduced interest in sex;
- Nausea, diarrhoea or constipation;
- Getting colds more often;
- Muscle tension, pains and headaches;
- Episodes of fast, shallow breathing and excessive sweating;
- Loss or change of appetite;
- Sleeping problems;
As well as these more noticeable signs, work stress can have a number of detrimental effects on your mental state. For this reason, they can be easier to dismiss as being the result of other things. Be on the lookout for:
- Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated;
- Feeling guilty or unhappy;
- Being irritable;
- Losing confidence and being indecisive;
- Thinking negatively;
- Having racing thoughts;
- Memory problems;
- Excessive worrying.
Having these thoughts or experiencing these sorts of emotions every once in a while is perfectly normal. After all, everyone has bad days. However, if you notice that you start to feel down for a prolonged period, then it’s time to make a change.
As well as having a negative effect on your quality of life, work stress can also be detrimental to your work. If you’re constantly worrying, chances are you’ll notice a significant drop in both your productivity and the quality of your output.
The best way to cut down on work stress is to identify and eliminate the factors that can influence it.
What are some of the causes of work stress?
Just like its symptoms, work stress can be caused by a number of different factors. Once again, we turn to Heads Up for a register of the possible sources of workplace stress.
- Working long hours or overtime, working through breaks or taking work home;
- Doing shift work;
- Time pressure, working too hard or too fast, or unrealistic targets;
- Having limited control over how you do your work;
- Limited input into broader decisions by the business;
- Not receiving enough support from supervisors, managers and/or co-workers;
- Job insecurity;
- High mental task demands, work that requires high-level decision making;
- A lack of role clarity;
- Poor communication;
- Conflict with colleagues or managers;
- Low levels of recognition and reward;
- Work that is emotionally disturbing or requires high emotional involvement;
- Poorly managed change, lack of organizational justice;
- Discrimination – whether based on gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality.
Although this list encompasses a wide variety of stressful situations that can contribute to work stress, it’s not exhaustive. If something is causing you to feel stressed at work, even if it seems trivial, you should attempt to deal with it before it becomes a bigger problem.
So how should I deal with work stress?
The best way to go about dealing with stress at work will depend on the situation or issue that elicits these feelings. You can probably find a bunch of general tips if you search “how to deal with stress at work” online, but the specifics are circumstantial. So, that’s why we’ve decided to go through some of the most common causes of stress at work. The solutions we’ve come up with are easy to implement and can make a world of difference. Let’s get started!
Maintain your health
You’ve probably heard it from your doctor a thousand times before, but the importance of sleep, exercise and a balanced diet cannot be overstated. You’re probably aware that maintaining this will improve your physical state, but it can also have a profound impact on your mental health. Doctors recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, and exercising for around between 30 minutes and one hour daily.
You don’t have to tell us that sometimes this is physically impossible. We totally understand.
However, there are some lifestyle changes that you can implement to at least gradually improve your habits. Think of it like climbing a mountain. It can be hard going, but each step brings you closer to the summit.
Start off with achievable goals, and be honest with yourself about the unhealthy habits that you can cut out of your life. Do you really need to drink a coke with your dinner, or could you just have water? Instead of watching TV every night before you go to bed, why not go to the gym a few times a week, or even work out at home? Wouldn’t you be better off going to bed a bit earlier, rather than staying up watching random YouTube videos?
Remember, even a little bit is better than nothing.
Use your commute to unwind
Whether you live close to work or have a long distance to cover, use this travel time as an opportunity to relax, but beware of secret costs. Thinking and fretting about all the things you have to do at work that day won’t help get them done, and will only result in even more stress at work. Instead, take the time to entertain yourself or even switch your brain off for a bit in preparation for the day ahead.
You can listen to music, an audiobook or a podcast while you’re commuting to take a little break from life. The options are almost endless! If you can find a way to relax during your travels, your brain and body will thank you for it later.
Avoid personal conflict
You would think that gossip and drama would have died out after high school, but apparently not. You will find in some workplaces that rumours and chit chat tend to spread. While it may be fine and even entertaining to engage in this in small doses, you don’t want to get too involved. Before you know it, you might find yourself at the centre of a needlessly dramatic situation that you don’t want to be a part of it.
To limit the possibility of any further work stress, it’s better to avoid too much gossip. You should, of course, feel free to talk with your colleagues. However, if the conversation shifts to a topic that you’re not sure of or comfortable talking about, then quietly excuse yourself and move on to something else.
Make sure your workspace is comfortable
You might not realise it, but something as small as an uncomfortable chair can affect how you think about work.
That might sound ridiculous, but hear us out.
Imagine this: You wake up on a workday, get yourself ready and leave your house. Chances are you’d already rather be at home than going to work, or just about anywhere else for that matter. You finally arrive and sink down into your awful chair. The backrest gives you no support, there are no armrests and it feels like there are nails poking up just below the seat cover. This is all you’ll be able to think about for the rest of your shift.
Obviously this is specific to an office-type work environment, but anything in your workspace that irritates or distracts you can cause unnecessary work stress. If you’re going to be at work, you might as well be as comfortable as possible.
Separate your lunch breaks from your work time
Just like your commute, you should treat your lunch break as you-time. Whether it’s an hour or half an hour, use this time to disconnect from your daily tasks. It might be beneficial to leave your place of work during this time as well. Go for a walk to a nice spot and eat your clean lunch in peace. Even that small period of recuperation can boost your mood for the rest of the day.
Stay organised and don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Demanding too much from yourself is a sure fire way to allow work stress to overwhelm you. It’s extremely important to be honest about your abilities and the time that it will take to complete certain tasks. Make sure that you’re organised so that you don’t have to spend too much time getting your bearings, and take the time to do each task as well as you can. There’s no point rushing and doing a dodgy job which you’ll have to fix up later, as that will only cause further stress.
Establish some clear work-life boundaries
With the current state of technology, more and more people are taking their work home with them. Having email alerts on your phone means that you are constantly notified when someone needs something from you.
There might be an expectation in your line of work to respond to these no matter where you are or what time it is. However, your job should not encroach on your life outside of work. If you are able to, switch off these notifications on your devices and make it clear that you will not be dealing with these matters outside of work hours. There will no doubt be some exceptions from time to time, but it’s important to not let this become a trend. You deserve to have your own life, free of interruptions from work!
Raise any issues with your boss and/or co-workers
If you can’t reduce your work stress through your own actions, never be afraid to ask others for help. Issues with fellow staff, your workload or the overall workplace environment are serious concerns and should be taken to either your supervisor or HR representative(s). If they are doing their jobs correctly, they will hear you out and help to find solutions to the problems that you’re having.
Consider taking mental health leave or seeking compensation
Feel like you need a break as a result of work stress? Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed; many people experience the same feelings. Safe Work Australia states that work-related stress has been linked with high levels of:
- Unplanned absences including sick leave;
- Staff turnover;
- Withdrawal and presenteeism;
- Poor work and poor product.
If your job is causing you such stress that it is proving detrimental to both your health and work, then leave and/or compensation might be an avenue worth exploring. You can find out more on the Fair Work website’s sections regarding leave advice and workers’ compensation
If all else fails, seek better working conditions
At the end of the day, a job simply isn’t worth it if it’s negatively impacting your health. If you’ve done all you can but you’re still suffering, then it might be time to quit and look for work elsewhere. Besides, if you bring up your concerns with your boss and co-workers and they fail to take you seriously, that’s not a workplace you want to be a part of. Unfortunately, not everyone is in a position where they can simply leave their job.
Finding a new job can be a bit of a lottery. However, if your current position is causing you so much stress that it’s affecting your health, and there seems to be no end in sight, then handing in your resignation might be the best option. A new start could be just what you need.
Work stress isn’t the only issue that Australians face
Unfortunately, pressure and feelings of anxiety can crop up as a result of many different things. Apart from work stress, you might also find yourself having to deal with financial stress from time to time. Just like this blog post has (hopefully) helped you to deal with work stress, Personal Loan Pal can help to find an affordable loan for you!
We understand how costs can spring out of nowhere and hit you all at once. Not only that, but we know better than anyone that time is of the essence. That’s why we find quick cash loans, fast cash loans, cash loans faster than the speed of light, or on the spot loans! We make finding easy loans… well, easy! Not only that, but you can even apply for a loan through us if you’ve recently received a Centrelink cash advance. If there’s a personal loan out there that works for you, then Personal Loan Pal will find it. To take some stress off your plate, apply today!