Do you often dread going into work or feel worried about the day ahead? The impending stress of your workday in modern office environments can feel all-consuming and inevitable, with 25 per cent of employees saying that their job is the top source of stress in their life.
Additionally, three-quarters of workers think current generations active in the workforce have more job-related stress than the previous generation. The reality is that many jobs require ample time spent in front of a screen, rushed deadlines and other high-stress triggers on a daily basis.
So what actionable steps can you implement to lower your stress and fall back in love with what you do?
The definition of workplace stress
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines stress as “the body’s response to a real or perceived threat.” Physiologically speaking, stress is the body’s reaction to preparing for a fight or flight response to a dangerous occurrence. However, in modern workplaces, these perceived threats are more often “problems that people have to work through.”
In the workplace, these potential problems could be anything, including preparing for a major presentation or worrying about completing a task perfectly on the first go. Of course, there is no main source of workplace stress between all employees.
Rather, stress levels and triggers vary between individuals, meaning that it’s up to each person to discover their main stressors and take the necessary steps to rekindle their own mental and physical well-being.
A few common physical and emotional signs of workplace stress include:
- Digestive issues
- Workplace accidents
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swing
Tips for decreasing work-related stress
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing stress in the workplace, there are plenty of ways to increase your resilience to stress and feel more in charge of your health and mental well-being at work.
Luckily, none of these stress-reducing suggestions from the Mood Disorders Society of Canada require major lifestyle changes. By taking small, actionable steps on a daily basis, you can begin to experience lowered stress levels and feel more engaged and productive while at the office.
Consider implementing the following practices into your daily routine at work:
1. Streamline your use of time
Many of us operate with ten tabs open at once, trying to keep up with incoming emails, drafting reports and researching industry updates all at once.
Instead of trying to stay on top of all tasks simultaneously, organize your time and focus on one thing at a time. When you get in, take care of urgent emails one at a time and make a schedule for your day. Not only will this practice help you focus on the task at hand, but it enables you to get the hard things done first for a seemingly lighter workload as the day goes on.
2. Learn to say “no”
Many of us are guilty of eagerly saying “yes” to every opportunity or task sent our way — either out of pride or habit. However, by spreading yourself too thin, you’re doing both yourself and others a disservice.
When approached with a potential project or task, take time to consider how long the task will take, and look at your current workload. If you’re already on the brink of feeling overwhelmed, be honest and say that you’ve got a lot on your plate. Your mental well-being is more important than fitting in last-minute requests.
3. Shift your mindset
In some cases, changing your initial reaction to potential stressors can help you lower stress levels. Rather than approaching problems as a barrier to overcome, think of them as an opportunity to think outside the box and optimize your problem-solving capabilities.
4. Move your body
Physical health is connected to your mental well-being. If you find yourself sitting down for more than an hour at a time, set a reminder to get up and stretch, walk for a cup of low caffeine tea, or simply go up and down a couple sets of stairs.
If you’re interested in taking your physical activity at work a step further, consider investing in a standing desk to take pressure off your hips and keep your body active.
5. Be honest with others
Workplace stress — or any type of health issue — should not be faced alone. Discuss your experiences with your coworkers and superiors, as you could be surprised to find they may be experiencing similar problems. By conversing about the importance of mental health in the workplace, you can propel office-wide changes and help create a healthier work environment for everyone
There is power in knowledge — knowing how to face your stressors and make a positive impact on your well-being is necessary to cultivate a healthier state of mind, both in and out of the office. If you’re seeking more information on workplace stress and mental health, please visit the Mood Disorders Society of Canada website for helpful tips and resources.