The tinsel has been taken down and the tree has been collected by the council, which can mean only one thing. It’s time to go back to work! Depending on what you do and what kind of break you had, you might have mixed feelings about this – but go back you must. And for the first few weeks, you might still be riding that post-holiday wave of relaxation and positivity. But for many people work is a great source of stress in their lives, and if not managed properly that can have a big impact. So as you get ready to get back into work mode, we have a few tips to help you manage work stress in the months to come, and make this year a much calmer, happier time.
Break it Down
It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by your workload. Employees are expected to do more and more these days, and we often lack the mental resilience to cope with these new demands. So if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, go through these steps:
- Concentrate on one task at a time
- Don’t think about the next one, or anything else on your list, until that is the one thing it’s time to focus on
Looking at the whole of a project, or even the whole of your to-do list in a working day can be overwhelming, and this can create feelings of anxiety and panic. These emotions will cause you to procrastinate, and then the task will seem further away from completion than ever, sparking more stress. Then guess what? You start procrastinating again, and again, and again. Sound familiar? So don’t try to look too far ahead – instead take it one day at a time.
Breathing is something you do unconsciously all the time – but conscious breathing has some great stress-relieving qualities. So when you start to feel that stress building, take a break and do some deep breathing. With one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, making sure the diaphragm (and not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. Then breathe out slowly, counting to 5. Repeat this 8-10 times. This exercise has been proven to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone), regulate blood pressure and produce a calming effect. Breathing techniques are great to get you to relax and are great for overall well being too. Practise whenever you feel stressed or commit to a daily 10 minutes.
Take Regular Breaks
Studies have shown that taking regular breaks actually makes you more productive – not less – so it’s important to fit them in during the day, no matter how busy you are. There really is no need to be sat at your desk all day thinking you will get more done, because you won’t – and even if you do it probably won’t be to your best standard. This is one of the reasons the Pomodoro Technique is so popular – because they discovered that the human brain is most productive in 25 minute stretches, with 5 minute breaks in between, and a longer break after 4 rounds of work. Try it some time, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, and how much more you get done. Even if you don’t use this technique, try to remember to take a break and work smarter, not harder.
Find the Good (and be Proud)
Your mind controls everything, and you are very much in charge of it. If you focus on filling your head with positive emotions, there won’t be any room left for the negative. In times of stress, try to think of something you have done well today, this week or this month, and take a minute to recognise that. Feel good about it and be proud of what you achieved, whether it was at work or in your personal life. Be grateful for all that you have and how you’ve managed to navigate your way to where you are now. Positivity and gratefulness are hugely helpful in times of stress, as it takes you away from those emotions.
Be OK With it!
Above all, learn to accept what you can’t change. A very wise man once told me that ‘what we resist persists’, and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to stress. You’ve probably noticed it yourself – the more you think about a problem and try to push it away, the worse it seems to get and the more invasive the thoughts become. This gets you into a cycle where you’re thinking, worrying, avoiding and then thinking again, and each time the stress and worry gets worse. But your mind is a powerful thing, the problem is often only a problem if your mind decides it is – and you have complete control over that. So, where you can, accept, address and move on. We know, it’s easier said than done, but practice makes perfect, so start trying it now!
To find out more about how to help yourself and your employees manage stress, contact us today to book your free consultation.