You have to cover for three colleagues who are sick with the flu, the server has crashed, your boss doesn’t seem to have time for your problems and the deadline for a very important project is inching closer. Workplace stress is making you a ticking time bomb. Apart from driving you up the wall, stress can have major effects on your health – contributing to everything from heart disease and depression to a loss of sex drive.
Managing your stress in the workplace can often seem like an impossible task, but it is extremely handy to master. Losing your cool and throwing a tantrum won’t make you popular with your colleagues, but bottling up your anger and frustration can turn you into a dormant volcano. Here are 10 tips to help you adopt a Zen-like approach to workplace stress:
Never underestimate the power of your physical surroundings. Even though you only have a square metre to call your own, decking out your workspace with plants, pictures and personal belongings will help to reduce your stress levels by reminding you of the great life you have outside of work.
Nowadays we spend more time in the office than we do at home, so when they say ‘make yourself at home’, literally do that. Creating your own personal space at work will help you to feel comfortable and at ease, ready to tackle any project that comes your way. And when you have a few minutes to yourself you can spend the time reminiscing about your last holiday to Bali, courtesy of the photos you have tacked up.
Keep your mind from exploding by creating a list of all the projects that you need to do in order of priority. If you have even more time, break down each project into the individual tasks required for completion. This will help you to stay focused on one assignment at a time rather than baulk at the enormous workload you have.
The next thing you know, it will be 5pm and time to hit the pub. Plus you’ll get the satisfaction of ticking off each task one-by-one when you’re finished.
Find an area outside of your office where you can go to blow off steam. It doesn’t matter where it is, although it is preferable to find somewhere quiet and empty where you can yell, shout, jump up and down, or whatever you need to do without having to worry about concerned onlookers reporting that there’s a crazy person in the park. Venting your pent-up emotions away from the office environment will help stop you taking your anger and frustration out on other team members. And you will re-enter the office a new person, ready to work.
If the glare of the artificial lights and the constant tap-tapping on keyboards start getting on your nerves, bravely gather your thoughts and hightail it out of the office. Taking regular breaks, even if they’re just a few minutes at a time, to have a snack, make a cup of tea or take a walk around the block can help get the blood flowing and your mind ticking. Regular breaks and fresh air can give birth to new ideas, enthusiasm and inspiration to give your work the flair it needs.
Whether it’s going to the pub with friends, watching your favourite television show or simply relaxing with a book, planning something enjoyable to do after work can give you the motivation to get through the day. Planning something relaxing will also act as a stress-breaker and stop it from consuming you. There is no way you can stay angry at the new girl’s blunder after work if you’re booked in for a shiatsu massage at the end of the day.
As frivolous as it may sound, wearing something fun, bright and colourful can help to lighten your day. Why add to the drab colour scheme of the office by wearing varying shades of black, grey and navy?
Studies have suggested that certain colours and shades can have positive effects on our mood and emotions, as well as our aura (for want of a better word). Splashing a little colour onto your palette with a tie or new scarf can help lift your spirits, inspire calm and fend off those office blues. Bonus: recent studies show that dressing for success can improve your performance.
If you only have time to eat lunch at your desk then at least make it a good one – the lunch, that is, not the desk. Looking forward to eating the leftovers of the hearty stew you cooked up last night can at least break up the monotonous routine of work, work, work.
Even keeping a block of chocolate in your desk can perk up your mood. However, this tip should not be read as an excuse to gorge yourself on fatty comfort foods, particularly if you have a sedentary job. In fact, food that is jam-packed with nutrition will have longer-term effects on your serotonin levels than that delicious cheeseburger with your name on it.
If you’re having a really stressful day the best thing to do is to tell your colleagues – without being too whingey, of course. That way they will probably think twice before hounding you with ridiculous questions, and sometimes just sharing can make you feel better.
You may also find that one of your co-workers has some extra time on their hands and can help you out. Communicating with your colleagues can also mean that they will be well prepared and understanding if you just so happen to lose your cool or have a minor meltdown.
If you’re constantly struggling under the weight of your workload and failing to meet deadlines, think about scheduling a meeting with your boss to discuss your projects. It may turn out that you’re not receiving adequate help and resources in order to complete your tasks efficiently and effectively, and as a result you are going prematurely grey. Your honesty should work in your favour and it’s better to let them know how you are coping before it’s too late and the company loses a major client – or you.
In both senses of the phrase. If stress is getting the better of you, perhaps it’s time to take a holiday and recoup your senses. Nothing says ‘relax’ more than a secluded beach with palm trees. If stress seems to come with the job title and you feel as if you’ve had your fair share, consider a career change. Remember, you can’t burn the candle at both ends forever.