More working days are lost to stress in the UK than any other ill-health reason. The Health and Safety executive report reveals that workers take a total of 11.7 million days off each year due to stress, depression or anxiety.
It is estimated that the total cost to the economy of lost working days through stress could be as high as £6.5 billion each year, and stress-related illnesses are also one of the most common reasons that policyholders claim on our income protection insurance.
In our guide we look at the signs of excessive workplace stress and anxiety, and outline three tips to help you to reduce your work stress level.
6 signs that you might be experiencing workplace stress and anxiety at work
There are a number of ways that excessive workplace stress can manifest itself. These include:
• Trouble concentrating
• Problems with your sleep
• Feeling anxious or depressed
• Headaches and muscle tension
• Loss of interest in both work and social activities
If one or more of these symptoms apply to you, you might need to take action. Keep reading for three tips to reduce your stress and anxiety at work.
1. Regain control of your work by being more organised
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of work, you can start by taking practical steps to reduce your stress level.
Sometimes just choosing to say ‘no’ to a request can help. Your line manager may not realise that you are struggling to cope and easing your workload may have a hugely positive effect. In addition, exercising self-control will be perceived by your colleagues as a strength, leading to improved working relationships.
Make sure you prioritise your important tasks, and put the least important to the bottom of the pile – or get rid of them completely.
Good time management can also help you to reduce stress and anxiety. Leaving ten minutes earlier in the morning can reduce the stress of being late, and can help you ease into your day. Regular breaks actually help you to be more productive – not less – while making sure you find a balance between work and family life can also help you to avoid burnout.
2. Talk to someone
One of the most effective ways of reducing stress and anxiety is to talk to someone. The act of sharing your issues – and having someone listen and support you – can help you to stay calm. There are a number of people you can turn to:
• Co-workers – support at work can help you to reduce anxiety you feel in your job. Engage with co-workers during breaks and you may find that letting off a bit of steam works wonders. Don’t forget that sometimes you will have to play the role of the ‘listener’ if a colleague is having problems of their own.
• Friends and family – ensuring that you have regular social contact means you have people to share your concerns with. If you are lonely and you don’t have supportive friends, it is easy to be stressed and anxious.
• New friends – if you don’t feel that you have a support network who can help you manage your stress, make new friends. Join a club, head to a ‘meet-up’ group or volunteer your time. You will build up a group of people you can turn to.
3. Sleep well, eat well, feel well
Reducing your stress and anxiety at work doesn’t just mean you have to take steps while you are in the office. Making improvements out of work time can also help you to feel better. If you are fitter and healthier you’re more likely to be able to manage stress more successfully.
There are three steps you can take:
• Sleep well – if you are well-rested, you are likely to be better equipped to take on the responsibilities of your job. A good night’s sleep helps your emotional balance and makes you more focused, productive and creative. Turning off screens at least an hour before bedtime can help you to sleep better, as can focusing on quiet and soothing activities in the run-up to your bedtime.
• Eat well – eating better can make you more focused and less anxious. Small, frequent healthy meals can help to maintain an even blood sugar level while avoiding caffeine, alcohol and trans fats can help to improve your mood. A better diet is likely to give you more energy and make you more resilient to stress and low mood.
• Feel well – exercise that raises your heart rate can lift your mood, increase your energy levels and relax your mind. Try to do some exercise a few times a week. If you feel particularly stressed at work, try to take a break and go for a walk. Physical exercise can help you to stay calm.
Making small adjustments to your lifestyle can have a hugely positive effect. As your health, sleep and mood levels increase, you’ll find yourself much better equipped to cope with the stress and anxiety you face in your work.