There are a number of ways to reduce the negative impact of stress. Most of these involve examining how you go about your work.
One of the most important factors is managing your time more effectively. Prioritise tasks, delegate where you can and make sure you don't take on more work than you can handle. Take regular breaks at work and try to finish one task before starting another. Other things that you can do yourself include the following.
- Make sure your work environment is comfortable.
- If possible, don't work long hours - sometimes projects need extra time, but working long hours over many weeks or months doesn't generally lead to more or better results at work.
- Take a look at your relationships with your colleagues - do you treat each other with respect and consideration? If not, try to find a way to improve relationships with your colleagues.
- Find out if your organisation offers flexible working hours
It's important to talk directly to your manager about work-related stress. He or she has a duty to take reasonable steps to try to resolve the problem. Explain how you're feeling and discuss your workload. If you find talking about your concerns difficult, it may help to make notes during your discussion. It's worth asking if your organisation has any policies on harassment, bullying or racism. Ask your human resources department how to challenge these policies and make sure you know what support there is for you if you decide to do this.
There are things you can do outside of work to help reduce your stress levels. Try to exercise every day if possible. Exercise helps to use up the stress hormones that cause your symptoms, giving you a sense of wellbeing and helping your muscles to relax. Even a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day will combat stress.
Other self-help steps are listed below.
- Talk to a friend or relative - this is a good way to get your worries off your chest. It can give you a fresh perspective and help to make stressful situations more manageable.
- Don't drink too much alcohol or caffeine, or smoke. Instead of helping, these stimulants may increase your stress levels.
- Eat regular meals and a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- Take up a new hobby or interest to take your mind off things.
- Have some fun - meet your friends or do something you love.
- At the end of each day, reflect on what you've achieved rather than worrying about future work. Don't be too hard on yourself and remember to take each day as it comes.
You may need to take some time off work, but this isn't always advised.
It's impossible to escape pressure at work altogether, so you need to learn how to manage stress effectively.
There are four basic approaches to dealing with stress:
- removing or changing the source of stress
- learning to change how you react to a stressful event
- reducing the effect stress has on your body
- learning alternative ways of coping
Stress management techniques aim to promote one or more of these approaches. You can learn these techniques from self-help books, attending a stress management course, or at therapy sessions run by a counsellor or psychotherapist.
These can include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which challenges negative thought patterns and helps you to react differently to events.
Aromatherapy, reflexology and massage may provide a quiet, relaxed environment in which to wind down.
Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, self-hypnosis, visualisation and, breathing exercises can also help you to relax. Yoga and Pilates may also help relieve muscle pains and help you control your breathing in stressful situations. They may also help you sleep better and relieve stress-related physical pains such as stomach pains and headaches.
Availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Ask your doctor for advice on your treatment options.