Carole Spiers top tips to beat work stress and accomplish the things you set out to do

Stress and Anxiety at Work

Many people at work suffer with stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, sometimes these mental health problems are even triggered or made worse by attending work. Quite often, these problems can leave you feeling as if you don’t have the skills you need to accomplish what you set out to do. This is usually because stress, anxiety and depression can cause you to worry, and even fear typical daily tasks that you might once have completed easily.

Some tasks at work that many people admit to worrying about include

  • Taking meetings
  • Sticking to and achieving deadlines
  • Building relationships with colleagues or clients
  • Getting on well with your manager
  • Maintaining a high quality of work

Here is how you can learn to conquer some of your stress and anxieties at work, and turn them into accomplishments

1. Make a numbered list of tasks you need to accomplish that day

Order them from most important to least important. Tackle this list in small chunks – one task at a time – and tick each off once it is completed.

2. Focus on building positive and transparent relationships with your supervisor and other co-workers

This means that you have people you can trust and rely on, and who you feel comfortable enough to ask for help when you need it, rather than suffer in silence.

3. Get into the habit of communicating in person as much as possible

The more you do something, the easier it becomes. Also, a lot can be misinterpreted or misunderstood over phone calls and emails which does not help you progress and can cause you to over-think even the simplest of things.

4. Avoid office politics

This can be difficult when it feels as if it’s surrounding you everywhere you look. However, drama only tends to increase anxiety, giving you one more thing to worry about so it’s easier to stay out of it completely. If colleagues come to you to discuss office politics, politely let them know that you’re too busy with work right now to stop.

5. Be realistic with your workload

It is very common now to say ‘yes’ to every project and every favour your boss asks of you. Over-committing to tasks and biting off more than you can chew will surely see you failing to stick to deadlines and then worrying about asking for extensions and stressing yourself out in the process of trying to achieve them.

6. Progress reports

This doesn’t have to be anything official; it can simply be a weekly conversation with others. It is good to keep people in the loop throughout the progress and delivery of a project. That way, if you encounter difficulties, people are on hand to help you out as they have the knowledge to assist or advise.

7. Find a sense of peace at work

We are all different and find peace at different places. For some, sound is most effective so listening to music at work can help. If taste helps you, it could be chewing gum, or for sight, it could help to work by a window or carry a photograph that calms your mind. This can help transport you to another place at times when you’re feeling stressed or divert your mind away from your worries.

8. Talk to someone about your worries

It’s an old saying but ‘a problem shared is a problem half-solved’ still rings very true. Sometimes you’ll find that others feel the same way, and finding this out can make you feel so much better. The act of getting something off your chest can already make you feel lighter and then knowing that you don’t have to struggle with it alone takes away the stress of feeling ‘strange’ for experiencing something that you think only you are suffering with.

Depression at Work

Feeling depressed at work is a separate issue – whether this is personal or brought on by work. Depression can cause you to feel unworthy, unmotivated and as if you can’t accomplish the things you want to. The best way to tackle depression is creating a lifestyle that helps you cope with it. It’s about focusing on how you want to feel, rather than how you feel right now.

The American Psychiatric Association lists these symptoms of depression, any or all of which can be an indicator that you’re experiencing depression.

  • You’ve lost interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • You’re eating more or eating less
  • You have trouble sleeping
  • You find it difficult to focus
  • You lack energy and often feel lethargic
  • You think about death and/or suicide

If you feel depressed at work, it can become such a struggle to keep performance levels high and to maintain healthy relationships with your boss and co-workers, which can make you feel even worse and isolate you.

Yet, this is a place that you have to come to five days a week, so it’s important to know how you can tackle this on a daily basis

1. Find out what your company can offer you

Many organisations offer free counselling to their employees. If you bring this up with the HR department, they should be able to direct you to the person or place that will best be of help. This is why we offer a nationwide employee counselling service which provides workplace stress and trauma support services to industry.

2. Make your workspace more personal

Most people who struggle with depression, anxiety or stress, don’t feel as bad when they’re in the comfort of their own home. It’s often when they have to leave the house that anxieties start to set in. Being in the workplace can especially cause feelings of dread for people, even before they’ve begun tackling deadlines and presentations. Bring photographs in to stand on your desk to have a little bit of familiarity and comfort. Maybe hang some artwork or arrange plants. Something so little can be a huge comfort.

3. Take breaks often enough

Exposure to daylight, especially in the winter months, is thought to lift our mood, with the middle of the day considered the most beneficial. Take yourself for a walk outside during your lunch break. A brisk walk might even result in the release of endorphins – natural mood-boosting painkillers!

4. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine

When you feel depressed, the last thing you want to do is work out. However, exercise is good for the mind, heart and soul. It can also be extra beneficial if you recruit a workout buddy from the workplace. This is great for accountability and can help you combat feelings of sadness.

5. Make more use of your lunch break

This could be the time you’ll fit in your workout or a walk, or maybe you can take some colleagues out for lunch. You can use this as an opportunity to try new restaurants or coffee shops, and the company will help to take your mind off feeling sad – and maybe even make you laugh.

6. Take some time off

When things start to feel worse, it can be extremely beneficial to leave work early or to book a few days off. Many people only book time off work when they have activities or holidays planned. However, it can be extremely useful to book the time off and simply spend the time relaxing, resting and rejuvenating. You can come back after a much-needed break, perhaps even feeling more productive and motivated.

By using the tips above, you can help to manage your stress, anxiety and depression at work, and to turn that negative energy into accomplishments. It isn’t an easy task, but it will always be of help to build a network of positive individuals that you can rely on in difficult times. Communication is the first step to tackling mental health problems so don’t put off talking to people about the way you’re feeling – it’s only a conversation at the end of the day and will be extremely beneficial when challenges do arise.

As workplaces are beginning to witness for themselves the success of wellbeing initiatives, and with the stigma around mental health slowly being reduced, Mental Health First Aiders modular training is becoming a popular choice. There is on-going modular training offered, covering issues such as workplace bullying, stress, change and resilience.

The tips in this article won’t completely solve your problems, but they will lessen the impact on your personal and professional life, helping you to continue accomplishing the things you set out to do at work!

Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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