Individuals who struggle with stress related to work often feel alone and assume that they are the only ones with such an experience. This could not be further from the truth. Work stress related symptoms are commonly reported by employees worldwide.
Thankfully, there are various ways to go about managing this issue. Here are some tips to get you started!
Recognise What Bothers You
Start by observing yourself in order to identify what causes your stress related symptoms at work. Some examples include high workloads, tight deadlines, overtime work, interpersonal issues, organisational changes, conflicting demands from multiple reporting lines, and different working styles. Reflect on what specifically you find challenging about the situations that affect you. This should give you a better sense of which aspects contribute to your work stress related symptoms.
Recognise What You Can and Cannot Control
People often find that they fail to address their stress adequately because they are attempting to control things that are out of their control, to no avail, of course. Ironically, this causes even more stress. Identify what you can and cannot control in your work situation. Do your best with what you can control, and accept that there will be things that are out of your control. Let these go. Examples of what you can control include the way you approach your individual work, how you present yourself at work, as well as what you say or do. Examples of what you cannot control include the words and actions of others, including how others may respond to you.
Respond, Rather Than React
When faced with unfavourable situations such as receiving an accusatory comment or complaint email, it is natural to react defensively and emotionally at first. However, try not to pour out your emotions instinctively into an immediate email reply, which may cause more problems. Pausing and waiting until you are calmer before responding can help you respond in a more objective and professional manner. This protects your work relationships and prevents further escalation of any stress related symptoms at work.
There are various forms of mindfulness activities such as breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, body scan, mindfully observing your surroundings, and meditation. Mindfulness exercises are particularly convenient because they can be practised anywhere, whenever you feel stressed. They can even be practised without ever leaving your office chair!
Stay Connected to People Outside of Work
It is important to have other aspects in your life besides work. However, with high workloads, overtime, and work related stress, it can be easy to miss out on spending time with family and friends. Put in effort to stay connected to loved ones, such as by checking in on them, engaging in hobbies and activities with them, or simply spending time with them. Staying socially connected is also important for both your physical and mental wellbeing. Moreover, remember that it is okay to ask for and accept help from loved ones when you experience stress.
Prioritise Your Physical Health
While the importance of exercise and getting a good night’s sleep are well known, people sometimes slot in exercise only when they have time away from work. Some may even treat sleep as an afterthought, by going to bed only when the day’s to-do list (including relaxation by watching Netflix!) is completed. Symptoms of work related stress may be addressed by intentionally making your physical health a priority.
In order to prioritise sleep, for instance, some people find it helpful to set a daily alarm at a specific time to prepare for bedtime. This may include winding down for the day and putting devices aside.
Meanwhile, others find it helpful to have someone to exercise with regularly, or to engage a fitness trainer. They may also find creative ways to make exercise a convenient part of their daily life, such as by making it a habit to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Counselling services and mental health hotlines have seen an increase in people seeking help in recent times. Counselling provides a safe environment to air one’s concerns. Other benefits may include lower distress levels, better emotional regulation, and improved communication skills.
A professional therapist may work with you to uncover the deeper causes of your stress related symptoms at work, as well as explore with you ways in which you may cope better. People often wonder if their symptoms of work related stress are “severe enough” to seek counselling. However, you do not have to wait for your work related stress to get worse before you try and make it better. You may also wish to check if your organisation has an Employee Assistance Programme. If you experience suicidal thoughts, reach out to the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444. Alternatively, see a doctor or seek help at the emergency department of a hospital.
In summary, work related stress is a common experience faced by many individuals, and there are various things you can do about it. Some recommendations include:
identifying exactly what causes your symptoms of stress;
identifying and differentiating what is and what is not within your control;
learning to respond rather than react;
practising mindfulness techniques;
staying connected to people outside of work;
making physical health a priority by ensuring that you exercise and get a good night’s sleep, and;
Your wellbeing is worth the effort!