Long working hours, pressure from deadlines, juggling priorities and demands, and concerns about your own performance or whether clients are happy with your work. They can all be a cause of stress in the workplace.
In fact, work is the most common source of stress for adults in the UK, according to the 2018 UK Workplace Survey.
To coincide with National Stress Awareness Day, which takes place on Wednesday 6 November, our member Hansa Pankhania has shared her thoughts on how to cope with stress at work.
Here’s Hansa’s list of things that you can do to help reduce stress from your job.
Take frequent breaks
Hansa’s first tip is to make sure you spend time away from your desk during the working day.
“Regular breaks help your body work through the stress that’s accumulating throughout the day. It gives the brain and body a rest and time to recuperate energy.
“It’s important to think about how you spend those breaks as well. Spending your break scrolling through social media on your phone could be counterproductive. It might contribute even more to your stress levels.
“Good things to do include going for a walk, getting some fresh air, trying some breathing exercises,” she said.
Connect with people
“Connecting with people is very stress-reducing,” said Hansa. “Make a phone call to a friend or relative or speak to a colleague. Having a chat to someone can really help.”
Not only can you talk things through with them and they may be able to offer some support – but human interaction can be a good boost and a powerful stress relief.
It’s a good way to spend one of your regular breaks as well.
Engage in physical activity
Physical activity can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and release endorphins, which are hormones that lift our mood.
Using the gym, running, walking, swimming, pilates, fitness classes, dancing, can all make a difference – but it doesn’t have to be sporting activities such as these.
Hansa said: “Building more activity into your daily routine is a good thing to do. Walk rather than drive short distances, use the most distant parking place, get off the bus a stop earlier, use the stairs not the lift, move around if it is appropriate while you are on the phone, dance round the kitchen if you like!
“All this shakes the stress out of your body. It kills the stress hormones and releases the anti-stress ones.”
Use relaxation techniques
Techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, yoga or tai chi, all help you to relax and to reduce stress, said Hansa.
“Relaxing the body frees the mind, and helps you stay clear and focused,” she added.
“They are greatly beneficial and easy to integrate in your routine once you have had a little practice.”
One form of meditation is mindfulness.
“Mindfulness gives you the tools to focus on being in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future. It relaxes and revives, calms body and mind and enables clearer thinking,” added Hansa.
Some simple techniques can be done at your desk, on the bus or train on the way to work, or on the sofa.
One involves focusing on your breathing. Notice the movement of your breath in your body, the rise and fall of your chest and your belly as you breathe in and out. Just observe his movement for 0-15 breaths. Take a few deep breaths.
Another is the body scan where you progressively relax each part of your body in sequence. Start with relaxing your face, then neck, arms and hands, shoulders, torso, legs, feet and toes.
Speak to your line manager or HR department at work
Employers have a duty of care towards you – and so speak to your line manager or your HR department if you are struggling with stress at work.
You can request a stress risk assessment, which is carried out according to guidance by the Health and Safety Executive.
Your company will have various policies and procedures relevant to stress and wellbeing, said Hansa.
But it’s important you make them aware of the situation you are in, if you’re struggling to cope with stress.
Manage your time and workload differently
The phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ is appropriate here.
It could be worth looking at how you prioritise your work or manage your time.
This may be something your employer can support you with, or there are training courses which can help you in this area.
Consider speaking to a counsellor
“The last thing you want to do is to keep your stress to yourself, instead share it and get it sorted out,” said Hansa.
You may have friends or family you can confide in, or you may speak to your GP.
And speaking to a professional counsellor can help you cope and reduce stress in several different ways.
It can give you a connection to someone who is not judging you; give you someone to offload to; help you to explore and understand what is causing your stress; and help you with some specific solutions and goals to help you combat your work stress.
“The counselling relationship provides a place for clients to be accepted, to not be judged and to verbalise what they are feeling and going through.
“It gives you someone to offload to in a safe environment.”
She used the metaphor of the ‘stress pot’ which can fill up and overflow.
“When everything is in the pot, you can’t see what it contains or make sense of it. That ‘pot’ can get emptied out in the therapy room. A counsellor can help you explore it and make sense of it. They can help you find the next step forward.”
Hansa added: “If you feel listened to and accepted, and you integrate all these little things into your working day, it can make a real difference.”
To find a local counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you with stress, see our Therapist directory.