Whatever your job role, stress is something many of us contend with. I think we can all agree that the last 12 months have brought new stresses to our lives, that certainly weren’t in our job description. Many of us are still working from home and for a large percentage, we will be split between home and the office now, even when things return back to normal.
The health and safety executive says that 35% of work related complaints are due to stress, so it needs to be taken seriously. As stress can hugely impact both health and personal lives, it’s an issue that employers and individuals must place as a priority for healthy, happy employees but also for an engaged and productive company.
With stress awareness month running through April, organisations are using this as a focus for their wellbeing workshops to support their people, reduce stress and improve performance.
So the good news is that you don’t have to have a stressed out workplace, encouraging implementation of these tips will enhance the support you give your people so that they can cope with these challenging times.
Start and end your day
If you’re in the office, you usually follow a fairly regimented routine, whether that’s getting up and stopping at the shop, or grabbing a coffee, so it shouldn’t be any different if you’re working from home. Get up as normal and ‘start’ your day, get dressed and ready as you usually would. I know I feel so much more productive if I am ready for the day, as opposed to just getting up and sitting down at my laptop! Ending your day when you’re at the office is easier as you can simply get up and leave, but at home you’ll need to create an act that essentially is the end of your day, whether that’s going for a walk, clearing your desk, or just doing something you enjoy.
The companies I’m working with are investing in support for their people around healthy boundaries and managing stress to improve performance because they are seeing that working hours are merging into the evenings and weekends, leaving their employees struggling to switch off or feeling under pressure to get through an incredible workload as well as juggling childcare when you’re essentially at your office all day and night!
Prioritise – make that list
Stress tells us that everything is a (perceived) threat, that it’s urgent. Everything you need to do is not necessarily a life and death situation it doesn’t need to be dealt with there and then.
One thing that can instantly make you feel less stressed is to write everything down. Getting thoughts, tasks and reminders out of your head will give you space to think clearly, come up with a plan and be able to prioritise and delegate where needed.
And, don’t forget to factor in lunch breaks, or time to rest or just get away from your screen. After all, if you were in an office you’d be at the kettle a few times a day, or over at a colleagues desk for a chat every now and again.
William James, an American psychologist once said: ‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another’ and this ties in perfectly to my next top tip, which is to breathe. By allowing ourselves time to take a deep breath in and a long breath out, we are giving ourselves time to choose another thought. The act of deep breathing takes your mind away from the initial anxiety in your mind, it calms down your internal systems and it will help prevent you from spiraling into a panic. Practicing a breathing technique every day is easy to implement and has huge benefits.
As we head into warmer weather, getting outside for a walk each day, even for ten minutes is hugely beneficial.
Stress is relieved within minutes of time in nature by reducing your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and reducing muscle tension and blood pressure. Nature also boosts dopamine and endorphins production both of which promote happier feelings. Taking a rest is necessary. It allows you to refresh your brain so that you return to work with higher productivity and better performance.
Speak to somebody
There are two strands to this, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, speak to your manager, quite often a lot of stress you’re feeling will just be your own mind and thoughts, but they might be able to help spread some of your workload. It might also be that you’re just feeling ‘zoomed out’, its so easy for businesses to get into the habit of just having meetings for meetings sake. Zoom calls can be exhausting as they stimulate our senses, so if you can free up time to get work done by dipping out of some meetings, that’s also worth mentioning.
Secondly, speak to colleagues. That’s it, plain-simple human interaction. If you were in the office you would be talking, so try and stay in contact despite being at home. You never know, you might be the only interaction somebody has that day. This can often help just make you feel better and less stressed too, by providing a distraction and taking a moment away.
As humans we’re hardwired to experience and respond to stress, but these simple tips can help you adjust your thinking to better cope. Stress can make us feel overwhelmed, unhappy and out of control, so its important to have some mechanisms to turn to. For more advice, get in touch with Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Langton has 10 years experience in supporting performance and mental wellbeing in organisations. She helps leaders with 1:1 coaching and organisations with virtual training and workshops. Emma regularly provides insights on leadership and mental wellbeing on her Lessons for Leaders podcast and has been featured in Forbes, Metro and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio and The Press Business Section. www.emmalangton.com