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Excessive workloads, unrealistic deadlines, and long working hours – these are just a few of the stressful things that most of us have to deal with every day at work. But did you know that these stressful situations can ultimately affect our health and wellbeing in the long run? In fact, nearly half a million people in the UK report work-related stress as severe enough to make them ill1. We caught up with leading psychologist, Oliver James, to find out how you can avoid stress at work, and not only improve your professional life, but your personal one too.
The Effects of Stress
Stress can manifest itself in many ways. Mental effects range from low confidence to indecision, while emotional symptoms can include depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Stress can also have a physical impact, for instance, chest pains, loss of libido, lethargy, or digestive problems. Managing and avoiding stress will not only help you improve your professional and home life, it could also help you live longer.
“There’s very good evidence to show that if you suffer from depression or anxiety as a result of stress, it shortens your life,” James explains. “It makes you more prone to heart attacks and other illnesses. And when you’re home, you’re more likely to be short-tempered and struggle with personal relationships.”
1. Mediate, Exercise, Yoga
Whatever your job, whether you’re stressed or not, you can do plenty of exercises like yoga or meditation to help. Even if you can only manage to do this for short periods of time, if you do it regularly, it can be a fantastic antidote to stress. If you have a higher level of cortisol, and find yourself in stressful situations, you are likely to be in a hyperactive state where you find it hard to calm down, and when this happens, the most practical way to reverse this, and reduce cortisol levels, is through meditation or other similar forms of exercise.
2. Improve Your Communication Skills
Astuteness is at the heart of effective communication. You need to be able to read other people’s moods and body language. Practise improving your ability to sense what’s going on, and try to approach things with a better strategy. Try reading body language and mirroring when possible – smiling or flattery, for example – those tactics work. However, one should be aware of what tactics to use, on what person, and at which moment.
3. Don’t Worry About Other People’s Pay
Bonuses and money can be big causes of stress. One thing you can do is to just concentrate on what you are happy with, instead of thinking about what other people have. There is a great deal of misery from people who worry too much about what everybody else is getting paid. All you need to do is make sure that you are getting your fair share, and that it matches your contribution. And if you have the opportunity to do so, speak up and make sure that your boss is aware of your efforts and contribution.
4. Be the Best Version of Yourself
If you’re ever at the wrong end of a colleague or client’s temper tantrum, then make sure you stay calm. If you can stay in a detached, calm state, behind a persona you’ve developed for the office, then you’ll be much better equipped to cope. The detached side of your personality is important to managing stress. You’re always going to be a different person at work than when you’re away from the office, therefore developing such characteristics can help you deal with others in the workplace with more ease.
5. Pay Attention to Signs and Symptoms
While prevention is ideal, many of us encounter workplace stress, despite our best efforts. There’s no medicine to treat it, but if you think you’re suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of stress (or for any other reason), then talk to your GP. They may suggest medication or therapy methods such as counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Stress can also affect the way you behave, from your eating and drinking habits, to how much you sleep. Often these changes further increase your stress levels and create a vicious cycle, so it’s important to tackle them early on, whether that’s by combating comfort eating, cutting back on alcohol, or taming insomnia.