Work is the main stressor leading to chronic stress. According to the 2018 HSE report on work related stress, 44% of stress in the UK is due to excess workloads at work, and 14% is due to a lack of managerial support. This work stress is not only affecting our job satisfaction, but many other aspects of our life. In fact, a quarter of us let this stress affect our health and 16% of us allow it to compromise our relationships.
Letting work stress take over our lives not only affects our happiness, but in the long run can lead to more severe mental health issues.
Is there a solution? Often, it is nearly impossible to avoid stress in the workplace, however, there are many ways to ensure work stress doesn’t affect your personal life.
One: Establish digital boundaries
One third of us carry on thinking about work and our work stresses after working hours.
In today’s digital world and with the likes of mobiles and laptops, it can be a challenge to ‘switch off’ after working hours. A good idea is to establish strict work-life boundaries such as not checking emails after 5pm.
Two: Combat work stressors with other intense activities
To avoid developing chronic stress, stress expert Dr Mithu Storoni suggests always following up an episode of stress with another enjoyable intense activity, to engage your mind in something else and avoid rethinking about the stressful episode.
It’s always a good idea to finish a long stressful day at work with a satisfying but equally intense activity such as a run, a game of football or playing an instrument. This will allow your brain to concentrate on something else, giving less importance to the initial stressor.
Three: Look after yourself
This is our most obvious tip, yet the hardest to follow. Looking after yourself, eating nutritious meals and getting enough sleep will not only make you feel more positive, but more importantly will help your brain to effectively control your stress levels and fight off severe stress symptoms.
Four: Develop healthy responses
Too often people rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine to cope with stress. However, despite common beliefs, these types of unhealthy responses are only temporary reliefs and can actually have adverse effects to your stress levels.
When you are stressed, you become hypersensitive to the external environment and your brain associates everything as a potential danger. In this state, you are unable to judge situations effectively and easily misinterpret cues and assume the worst. Consequently, stress makes every external factor appear negative, putting you in a constant ‘defensive’ mode. Coupling this with unhealthy responses such as alcohol will only make it harder for the brain to readapt to its happy self.
The NHS suggests developing healthier responses to stress such as exercising, meditating and talking about issues with friends and family.
Five: Take time to exercise and meditate
Research has proven that the two best ways to combat stress are to exercise and to meditate. Exercise reduces fatigue, improves alertness and concentration, and enhances individuals’ general cognition, all contributing to keeping the brain energized and avoiding the negative effects of stress.
If possible, it is recommended to exercise or meditate before work, to start your day on a positive note.
Six: Connect with people
According to the NHS, connecting with people and doing activities with friends is an excellent stress reliever. However, 16% of people in the UK admit to compromising on relationships for work.
Making sure you give some priority to your social life will help alleviate stresses, which in turn will help you focus better when you are actually at work.