These days stress seems to be the number one word on the tip of everyone’s tongue, which is hardly surprising when we consider that we have made ourselves available 24/7 through mobile phones, social media and work mobile devices which download emails begging for our attention every second of the day. All this before we’ve even considered that personal to-do list, family obligations (no matter how wonderful they are), our social lives, our career progression, our self-development, our next holiday and let’s not forget our health, fitness and general wellbeing.
Depression, suicide, opiate addiction and general signs of overdoing it are on the up, particularly in the fast, high-pressured world of Financial Services. You just need to conduct a Google search to find compelling statistics in this regard. In 2014, the NHS conducted a survey which found that 1 in 3 adults suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety.
As the pressure on us increases year on year, it has become increasingly urgent for us to take care of ourselves holistically, that is from head to toe. Allowing stress to go unmanaged or unaddressed, can lead to anxiety or depression, both of which can be debilitating. Stress is related to heart disease, stroke, weight gain among other things. Below are some tips which may help you to manage or even overcome the stress you feel in your workplace.
1. Better time management
“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
By carefully managing your day, you can reduce the stress related to your diary management and not having time to do any work, which usually means you have to stay late. Most importantly, STOP attending pointless meetings. At the end of each Friday, I like to take a few minutes to sit down with my diary and review the meetings and demands for the following week, I then prioritise all the activities and meetings for the following week. If I don’t know what a meeting is about, I will request additional information, if this is not forthcoming or not directly relevant to me, I will not attend (make sure you provide a brief agenda in your meetings – this is just etiquette). I also group my meetings, if I have to meet several people in a different building, I will group them into consecutive meeting slots, to save me time and also some sanity.
2. Use your lunch break wisely
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato
You are entitled to that time, even if it is only 30 minutes to clear your mind, have a mindful meal, exercise, read your book, sit in the sun or have a massage. I use my lunch hour to exercise, have a massage or study. Sometimes, I even have lunch with a friend.
3. Take care of yourself
“Self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation.” – Audrey Lorde
Anyone who knows me will tell you I say this all the time but if you don’t look after yourself and you drop dead, your boss may be sad for a bit, but in the end, they will just replace you. It does not matter how good you are at your job, you are replaceable should the need arise. I know it to be true because it has happened to me.
If you are not looking after yourself, working all the hours possible and missing out on friend’s events and family occasions you will quickly find yourself uninvited and also probably quite unhealthy. Your organisation, for the most part, will not be looking out for you or your health and the hours you are putting in, that’s your job as an adult.
4. Work-Life Balance
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” – Dolly Parton
Work can be fun, rewarding, challenging, exciting but so can life. Life is a grand adventure if you just give it a chance. As previously mentioned, you are replaceable. At present, 13% of the UK population works more than 49 hours per week and the statistics are even worse across the pond in the United States of America. It is no surprise then that stress is increasing and happiness decreasing.
As obligations in the office rise, the obligations at home seldom decline in correlation thus adding further pressure on our already stretched time resource. Allan F. Mogensen said “Work smart, not hard”, this involves extremely good prioritisation and organisation which allows you to break your workloads into blocks that work for you. I tend to colour code my activities based on importance to me e.g. High priority must do today; Medium Priority; Low Priority; Not Negotiable. Anything which involves my partner, my friends and family remain Not Negotiable. I will not prioritise work over the people I love, ever. Try it, your life and your relationships immediately improve when you make people a Not-negotiable Priority.
5. Get to know the people around you
“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” – Robin Sharma
Humans are social beings, it is ingrained in our very nature to want to interact. To go to work and see the same people every day, or even hotdesk next to them, and not know their names is just pure insanity. No-one is saying you have to be best friends but in the very least, you should greet the people you spend the majority of your day with, even if you don’t want to spend the day with them.
Getting to know your colleagues and having a little chit chat can be good for productivity as it encourages employees to get to know each other, thus wanting to support each other and keep up-to-date on what others are working on. It also helps you to “step away” from your computer for a few minutes, allowing your eyes and your brain to rest, perhaps leading to more creative ideas. It can also give you a chance to put things into perspective, thereby releasing a bit of stress.
6. Speak up
“Avoidance is the best short-term strategy to avoid conflict and the best long-term strategy to ensure suffering.” – Brendon Burchard
If you are overloaded, say so. In this modern age, where we are provided with so much immediate content and information, it can be difficult for managers to know when you are juggling too much, have a relevant problem with a co-worker or even have trouble at home, so speak up. Don’t wait for your 1-2-1 to speak to your manager, raise the issue as soon as it becomes a problem, don’t wait for it to escalate and perhaps become unmanageable.
Watch out for the cumulative effects of not taking responsibility for managing your stress, which can lead to illness of both the physical and mental nature and possibly manifest itself into horrific diseases or total burnout. Take it seriously, stress is a killer and no-one wants to see your boss needing to replace you.