We all face stressful situations at work, whether in the office, working from home or out on the road. Here are 14 ways to deal with workplace stress.
First, a few statistics from Health and Safety Executive regarding stress in the workplace:
The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show:
- The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 487,000 (39%) out of a total of 1,241,000 cases for all work-related illnesses
- The number of new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 244,000
- The rates of work-related stress, depression or anxiety, for both total and new cases, have remained broadly flat for more than a decade
- The total number of working days lost due to stress, depression or anxiety was 11.3 million in 2013/14, an average of 23 days per case of stress, depression or anxiety
- The industries that reported the highest rates of total cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety (three-year average) were human health and social work, education and public administration and defence
- The occupations that reported the highest rates of total cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety (three-year average) were health professionals (in particular nurses), teaching and educational professionals, and health and social care associate professionals (in particular welfare and housing associate professionals)
“According to a recent ADAA online poll, some 14 percent of people make use of regular exercise to cope with stress. Others reported talking to friends or family (18 percent); sleeping (17 percent); watching movies or TV (14 percent), as well as eating (14 percent) and listening to music (13 percent).
For businesses, employee health should be paramount. Stress can effect creativity, productivity and the general morale within an office. For these reasons it’s imperative to recognise the signs of stress within the workforce and be able to help reduce it’s effects.”
If your stress is caused by being seated in a particular location or with a certain individual, then is it possible to remove yourself from that situation? Many businesses now offer telecommuting options or ‘hot-desking’ to employees. Both of these options offer a chance for you to change your workplace setting and potentially avoid the cause of your stress.
Telecommuting is also an alternative should your stress be caused by your journey to work. Sitting for lengthy periods of time in traffic, putting up with other drivers who don’t seem to care about the rules of the road or just the time it takes to travel to the office can all increase your stress levels, even before you’ve arrived at the office.
2) Prepare for potentially stressful situations
If you know about a project, meeting or other situation that will likely be stressful, then make sure to prepare well in advance. Having as much prepared as possible will help put you at ease and reduce the chances of getting stressed about not being ready.
If you’re working as part of a team, then the responsibility is shared and usually this makes us feel a bit better and at ease. If you are working with others (or managing a team) then maintain communication; knowing what’s going on will help you to pre-empt any potential problems. Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and that they’re happy with what they have to do and by when.
3) Breathe, just breathe
When you’re stressed, your breathing pattern changes. You’ll typically take shallow breaths, using your shoulders rather than your diaphragm to inhale.
This style of breathing disrupts the balance of natural gases in the body and can create and prolong feelings of anxiety. Controlling and concentrating on your breathing can help to reduce these feelings of stress.
4) Rationalise if possible
Have a think about what it is that’s causing your feelings of stress. In some cases, just by rationalising and breaking down what the cause is you can work towards a simple solution. It’s all too easy to let things build up to such an extent that they seem worse than they actually are or irreparable.
If you can, simplify the situation and try to think of a solution from someone else’s perspective. This strategy is especially effective is your feeling anxious about an upcoming event. More often than not most things that we are dreading are never as bad as we think they’re going to be.
Thinking rationally and putting things into perspective can often help to alleviate the anxiety and help us to calm down.
5) Immerse yourself in music
Listening to music is known to evoke certain feelings. Grab a set of headphones and play a few of your favourite tracks to reduce negative feelings. Classical music in particular can lower blood pressure, reduce your heart rate and decrease levels of stress hormones.
With modern devices and the abundance of music services, the good thing is that we can listen to music at pretty much any time and in any location. If you’re getting stressed driving to work, then listen to music in the car. If it’s the train journey, then get some headphones and Spotify on your phone.
Music is also a great distraction, allowing us to think of things other than those thoughts which could be causing us stress.
6) Make a cup of tea
Getting up and making a cup of tea can instantly reduce your stress levels in particular situations. By moving away from your desk and performing the task of making the tea you’re not only removing yourself (albeit temporarily) from the stressful environment, you’re also distracting yourself.
It may also be the case that the stress is as a result of a conversation you’re having with a colleague. If this is the case then make a tea for the both of you, if you’re stressed then your colleague probably is too. Making a tea will be especially appreciated in such circumstances.
A study by City University London showed a 25 per cent increase in anxiety for those that did not receive tea immediately after the stress-inducing test. Conversely, those who were given tea actually demonstrated a four per cent reduction in stress.
Exercising has a number of health benefits (as we all know), but is also a very effective strategy to reduce stress, for a number of reasons:
- It increases the production of endorphins which generally make us feel better
- It’s a great way to take our minds off the stresses in our lives and concentrate on a singular goal
- By getting fit – and looking fit – you increase your self confidence and feel better about yourself
- Exercise promotes the production of neurohormones that are associated with improved cognitive function, elevated mood and learning
Regular exercise will improve your metabolism, your heart and your general mood. It will help you to relax, keep calm, counteract depression and reduce stress. Exercise is also vital for maintaining mental fitness, it reduces fatigue, improves alertness, concentration and your overall cognitive function.
Exercise can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
8) Take a walk outside
Scientists have found that taking a brisk walk really does calm people down by triggering nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses.
Again, by removing yourself from a stressful situation and concentrating on a specific task(s) such as walking and breathing you can reduce the effects of stress.
Avoid busy areas near lots of noise or crowds of people, if you’re in a city then try to find a park to walk around.
9) Chew some gum
Researchers have discovered that gum chewing reduces stress. A 2008 study showed that gum chewing reduced the stress hormone cortisol in participants. They reported feeling less stressed and more alert as a result.
In another study, participants who chewed gum twice a day for 14 days said that their anxiety was significantly less than those that did not chew gum.
Chewing gum can produce the following benefits when compared to those who do not chew gum:
- less extreme stress at both work and in life
- lower levels of feeling depressed
- lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol
10) Get creative
“Creativity therapy is the use of drawing, painting, writing, sculpting or playing music as a form of stress relief and also as a way of dealing with emotional or psychological problems.”
A sense of total immersion in a creative hobby can help to reduce stress, it can also give the sense of a balance in life between work and personal time.
Acting as a distraction, doing something creative such as painting allows us to concentrate solely on the end result of finishing your project.
11) Spend time with and talk to a friend
Simply talking through your feelings with a trusted friend can be a great way to relieve stress. This is especially true if your friend is removed from the stressful environment (not a colleague), as they will have an impartial and untarnished view of the situation.
Just spending time with friends and having fun will help you to reduce stress and enable you to concentrate on something other than what’s worrying you.
12) Find a clown
Find someone funny and have a laugh. When you laugh you inhale more oxygen which stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being.
Laughter has long-term benefits too, as it can help to improve your immune system and make you more approachable, making it easier to meet and work with people. A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving you relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
13) Get some sleep
Sleep regulates hormone levels, refreshes the mind and helps us think clearly. It also gives the body a chance to repair and restore itself on a daily basis.
Good sleep isn’t just about trying to catch up with sleep on certain nights and staying up until all hours on others. It’s about a regular sleeping pattern, ideally about 8 hours per night.
14) Find a furry friend
Whether it’s an office dog or a pet at home, our furry friends are known to reduce stress and calm us down. Spending time with a pet can reduce stress, improve your mood, lower blood pressure and provide a reason to get out and exercise.
Harvard Medical School even has a registered therapy dog called Cooper. His job is to simply provide people with some time to play, pet or just sit with him to let off steam and destress.