Understanding & Preventing Stress in the Workplace
We’ve all experienced stress in the workplace, whether it’s from deadlines, long hours, or managing work relationships. Stress can take a mental and physical toll, but when does this become too much? The stress hormone (cortisol) has a significant effect on our brain and body, especially when endured over a long period of time.
And from this many negative effects can arise and seen on productivity, performance, health and relationships. Therefore, it is important to be able to identify when your day to day stress becomes unhealthy.
Causes of Stress and Identifying Stress
Stress is useful for arousal and serves an important purpose as a warning system. This can be very helpful for performance, however when it becomes too much it is actually detrimental for task efficiency. See the graph below as a representation of the stress performance curve.
When stress stops being helpful and starts to have negative effects on you or your employees it’s time for recovery. A few causes which can kick-start this interference on your work or personal life are;
Poor lifestyle balance
Poor time management
So maybe this isn’t news to you. Generally, we understand what can cause stress; but what we often found difficult is identifying negative stress patterns in ourselves, making it harder to take action. To identify stress the Australian Psychological Society (2019) has suggested to look out for signs such as;
Difficulty making decisions,
Lower mental performance (memory, focus, creativity),
Depression and anxiety,
Being defensive/ sensitive,
Higher levels of anger and frustration,
Lower confidence and self-esteem,
Finding it hard to relax,
Increase reliance in alcohol, smoking, caffeine,
What do I do if I’m stressed?
So now we have identified our high stress levels, we need to act. What can we do? There are a number of approaches you can take. Challenging unhelpful thoughts and replacing those thoughts with more positive cognitions is a good cognitive strategy many adopt. This involves identify the cause of your stress, observing what thoughts this causes, creating positive alternatives to these thoughts and rehearsing this self-talk to adapt this skill. Another helpful strategy is to seek support from colleagues or family and friends. This can be support emotionally, mentoring support, or support with your workload. Integrating relaxation techniques and meditation is also useful in mitigating an overload of stress. These are just a few of many suggestions for beating immediate stress. But nothing is more effective than stress prevention.
To lower your stress, prevention is key. Turn to these tips on stress prevention. For each step, think about how you could implement this into your schedule, and a few ways of doing so. If some don’t suit you don’t worry, pick the ones that are convenient for you:
Exercise – 30 minutes a day, even just a short walk.
Relaxation – learn some breathing exercises to reverse the effects of stress, do some mindfulness activities or find another way in which you like to relax.
Do something fun every day – find time to do something you enjoy.
Manage workload – time management can fell stressful, but once everything is in order you can relax and attend to tasks when you have planned to.
Leave work on time – you can finish it off tomorrow.
Don’t take work home – it’s important to have a place where work can’t reach you. This isn’t to say you can’t be contacted in an emergency, but those emails that can wait until tomorrow, or tasks which can be set aside for later shouldn’t follow you home.
Say no more often – it’s hard to say no, but it is an important skill. Set guidelines pre-emptively, and if you’re asked to do something outside these guidelines, say no! You’ll find your colleagues will start asking you for less favours and you’ll start having more time.
Ask for help – if you’re finding that you can’t juggle everything on your plate ask someone to help out. Even just simply communicating your feeling stressed will help you and those around you feel better.
Talk to someone – share with someone what is causing your stress listen to their advice.
Postpone major changes – if you have something major coming up that you aren’t ready for maybe it best to consider postponing this to a later date
If you feel you are struggling with some of the causes for your stress it is ok to seek help. Contact us at 07 3852 2441 if you would like support to get on top of your stress levels, or keep an eye on our blog page for more practical tips.
Stress | APS. (2019). Retrieved 5 November 2019, from https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Stress