Do you dread returning to work after a holiday or a weekend break? Have you noticed changes in your mood, appetite, or health following a promotion or changes to your workload? If so, you are not alone. Work-related stress is one of the most common causes of complaint and absenteeism for employees all over the world, especially for those who work in an office environment. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) has labelled stress a global epidemic that has huge financial and human repercussions.
It is true that not all causes of stress can be fully eliminated from our working lives, but as an office employee, there are a few things that you can do to help you deal with stress in the office. Below you will find some useful suggestions in this respect.
Are you your worst enemy?
It is very common to blame external factors on a stressful working environment. Unrealistic deadlines, an ever-increasing workload, staff shortages, or strained relationships with your colleagues or boss can be sources of stress, but have you become your worst enemy without realising it? Keeping stress under control has a lot to do with our own coping strategies and with your response to external stressors (like the ones mentioned above). In other words, your attitude could be magnifying these sources of stress and making them worse, snowball effect-style.
One of the things to look out for includes the common belief that you are pretty much “invincible” and that you can handle everything on your own. Going to work while you are ill or making overtime a habit are some common actions that can easily end up being counter-productive and leading to burnout. To prevent this, it might be useful to make a realistic list of your limitations so that you don’t take on more than you can handle. It is also important that you learn to delegate tasks and responsibilities on others and that you ask for help at home and at the workplace when you are starting to feel overwhelmed. These are all crucial aspects of stress management.
Likewise, it is important that you evaluate your own approach to failure and success. Dwelling on past failures will only increase your stress levels and can quickly cause physical ailments, such as muscle aches, migraines, etc. And while we are at it, are you still using the word ‘failure’? According to neuro linguistic programming (a technique that has been successfully used to deal with stress), the so-called failures are nothing more than opportunities to improve and to find new ways of dealing with whatever life throws at us. Take a look at this link to learn more about how to use neuro linguistic programming to deal with stress at work.
The role of diet and exercise
It has been scientifically proven that a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of stress. Then again, you might be thinking ‘but I barely have time to eat or to exercise during a normal working day, so how am I going to make this work for me?’.
The first thing to keep in mind is that small changes can go a long way. If you are like the majority of office workers, chances are that you only get a 30-minute lunch break. Make every single one of those 30 minutes count by packing a lunch full of anti-oxidant and vitamin-rich foods, such as tuna, green leafy vegetables, and citrus fruits. Throughout the day, boost your energy levels with snacks like nuts, dried fruit, or fresh berries. This will help you achieve more in less time and therefore reduce the likelihood of experiencing stress.
As for exercise, regularity is the key. There are some simple exercises that you can do while you are sitting at your desk, such as stretches or leg lifts. Doing this for five minutes at the time can bring stress relief without interfering with your productivity. You will find some useful and unobtrusive exercise ideas in this website.
Taking a holistic approach
There are many other things you can do to deal with stress in the office. These include getting started in meditation or yoga, rekindling your enthusiasm with your favourite hobbies, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, having a go at acupuncture or aromatherapy, or attending a stress-management workshop. For best results, take a holistic approach to coping with stress and you will prevent the Monday blues from turning into something more serious.