Between larger workloads, longer working days, and the pressure to be ‘always on’, 24/7, the line between work/life balance is becoming increasingly blurred. More and more employees are taking their work stresses outside the office and into their home; whether it’s constantly checking work emails, reading through presentation notes and meeting minutes over the evening meal, or planning the to-do list for the next day moments before going to sleep. This issue of anytime, anywhere access has become so extreme that in France, for example, a new law came into effect which gives employees the ‘right to disconnect’ from work-related business, like checking emails, once their working day has ended.
Studies have found that the pressure to stay ‘on’ – whether it’s adding additional hours to the work week or communicating with colleagues and clients long after the workday has ‘officially finished’ – is leading to a rise in workplace stress, panic and anxiety attacks. American professor and business theorist, Jeffrey Pfeffer claimed in his 2018 book ‘Dying For A Paycheck’ that ‘the workplace profoundly affects human health and mortality, and too many workplaces are harmful to people’s health – people are literally dying for a paycheck.’ However, the good news is that more and more employees are becoming aware of their mental and physical health and spotting when work is taking a negative toll on it.
If you’re feeling stressed and anxious at work, what can you do? Here, we discuss five coping methods.
1. Schedule Breaks
Many people push themselves to ‘work, work, work’ without breaks, thinking if they work their full shift (be it eight hours or 10) they’ll get more done. However, working for long periods of time without taking regular breaks causes stress levels to go up and productivity and concentration levels to go down.
Schedule breaks throughout your day to walk and do stretching and/or breathing exercises at your desk. Taking regular breaks boosts your energy levels and clears any build-up of stress so it’s important that you take them – if you struggle to take a break, set reminders on your phone or desktop to ensure you never miss one.
2. Eliminate Interruptions
Emails, phone calls, sudden meetings, and urgent deadlines mean workers are more distracted than ever. If you’re constantly being interrupted by email notifications and deadline reminders, you need to learn to manage your interrupters.
Asses the importance of your interrupters, learn how to react and act to them, and plan your day around this. For example, schedule windows where you will respond to emails or assign certain hours in the day during which you will talk face-to-face with a colleague about a project or deadline.
3. Prioritise Your Work
The modern-day work environment is fast-changing, with competing deadlines, urgent projects and demanding schedules. Because of this, it’s critical that you draft your to-list in order of importance.
Having an organised list of tasks will help you keep on track, ensuring you’re meeting both the company’s and your own personal goals.
4. Eat And Sleep Well
Eating badly has a negative impact on your stress system so if your diet is mainly high-sugar, processed foods, you need to do change and consume foods with all the right vitamins. Chickpeas, lentils, chicken and oatmeal are rich in B vitamins which are responsible for anxiety easing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Almonds, spinach and tofu and loaded with magnesium which produces calming neurotransmitters that act as a muscle relaxant. When you eat right, you feel right.
Also, it’s important that your body gets its required resting hours. Adults needs between 7 to 9 hours sleep every night to function at their best. If you find your mind is constantly racing with work thoughts before bed, do relaxing exercises like meditation or aromatherapy which studies have found to improve sleep.
5. Work Your Worries Away
Exercise is a mood lifter as it increases the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters (endorphins) and as a result, helps lower the symptoms associated with anxiety.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, and you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a gym membership. A walk at lunchtime, cycling to work, or doing exercise videos at home are all effective ways to your body moving.