Stress isn’t always a bad thing – it can motivate you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to do your best. Stress can even be related to positive experiences, such as getting a new job or a promotion. But even if you’re doing a job you love, feeling frazzled and anxious can have a real impact on our work lives, as well as at home. Being mindful of your mental health and taking some proactive steps to look after yourself and others can prevent more serious issues in future.
Here are out top tips for spotting the signs of stress and dealing with it.
1. Figure out what stress is
Stress is your body’s way of identifying and responding to a threat or demand. Stress is our body’s defence mechanisms kicking in when you sense any danger, real or imagined. It is your body’s way of trying to protect you and when it works properly, and in moderation, it can keep you feeling alert, focused and full of energy. Feeling a little stress can help keep you stay motivated and on your toes at work. But when it starts to take over your life, it can really damage your quality of life.
2. Learn to spot the signs and symptoms of stress
Stress can manifest itself in many ways and the signs and symptoms creep up on you. You may even feel that it’s normal. Stress can have an impact on your cognitive functions making it hard to concentrate at work. You may feel you have poor judgement or are unable to make decisions easily, your memory suffers and you worry a lot. Stress can lead to emotional issues such as anxiety, loneliness, irritability and anger or depression. Physical symptoms of stress could include nausea and dizziness, a rapid heart rate or a low immune system. Stress can also affect the way you behave, such as the way you sleep and eat.
3. Talk about your feelings
A problem shared is often a problem halved. If work is stressing you out then sharing your worries with a work mate, friend or family member can make you feel less alone. Taking control of your feelings and talking about them isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s the first step in taking charge of your mental health and wellbeing. The more we talk the less stigma there will be associated with mental health problems too.
4. Get your work/life balance right
Balancing busy work lives with families, holidays and a social life can be really tricky. Figuring out what and who to prioritise can leave us feeling torn and rather guilty if you’ve prioritised one over the other. Working harder and longer doesn’t necessarily mean we are working more effectively and this can soon take its toll on our mentalhealth and productivity. If you’re often the last to leave work, now is the time to put some boundaries in place to help ensure your work doesn’t take over your personal life too. Small things like writing ‘to do’ lists can make a real difference and help you prioritise. Using the journey to and from work to unwind and do something which makes you happy, such as listening to music, a podcast or reading a book can also help.
5. Prioritise your workload and learn to say no
If a situation is stressing you out beyond what you feel comfortable with then listen to your gut because it may be your instincts telling you to rethink the situation. It may be that you need to say no to a new contract, take on extra support or stop working on something that isn’t working out. Or it may be that your gut is telling you to slow down and ask for some help.
6. Regain some control
Stress is basically a sense of feeling out of control. One way of dealing with it is to figure out how to regain some ownership of any situation which is causing you anxiety. First of all you need to identify what the problem is and what elements of the situation you do have some control over before thinking of practical and strategic ways of overcoming the issue. You also have some control over how you react to stressful situations so it’s a good idea to anticipate what problems may occur and develop a rough plan for how you might respond.
7. Look after your body, as well as your mind
Living a stress-free lifestyle may feel too good to be true and while you can’t completely rid your life of all stresses, you can control how much it affects you. Regular exercise can really lift your mood by boosting the endorphins which make you feel happier and more positive. Relaxation exercises such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga can also help balance the ‘fight or flight’ feelings associated with stress and enable you to deal with stressful situations better.
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Written by Steve Hinton
Steve Hinton is an experienced Executive Coach and Consultant working with Chief Executives, Managing Directors, Senior Executives and other leaders and can work with you to create exceptional and successful leadership teams.
Contact Steve for an informal chat, and take the first step toward your team's super success!