According to Perkbox’s 2018 Workplace Stress Survey, work is the most common source of stress for UK adults with 59% having experienced it first-hand. Just 9% of respondents claimed to never experience it at all. That’s an incredible statistic when you consider that there were around 32.54 million people in work in the UK in January 2019.
So, what can we do about it? How can we feel better?
Employers can only control so much. However, organisational culture plays a large part in the health and well-being of employees and is something that really can be controlled.
Culture can be found in the relationships, communication, behaviours and interactions across organisations. To nurture a healthy organisational culture, it is important to understand how secure employees feel to show their true selves, take risks and openly converse. This is often called psychological safety and is the main ingredient when it comes to team performance as well as being closely interwoven with resilience.
Prolonged stress can lead to physical symptoms such as lower immunity levels, digestive and intestinal difficulties (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome) and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It’s incredibly important to ensure that we are managing the stressors in our lives. At work, developing a collective resilience amongst employees and offering coping strategies to deal with stress management, makes it easier to adapt to periods of high pressure and disruption.
Here are a few suggestions;
- Exercise – aerobic exercise, in particular, is as important for your head as it is for your heart. This is supported by a study conducted by Harvard Health Publishing, the benefits of regular aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. It reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, whilst stimulating the production of endorphins which act as a natural painkiller and mood elevator. Encouraging employees to undertake regular exercise can have incredible benefits.
- Mindset – we are often our own biggest barrier to feeling good. Deciding that we are having a bad day can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We subsequently choose to see events in a negative way and a bad day gets even worse. Having a positive mindset and training people to take a positive approach to everything will help them to be more resilient to stress factors. There are a huge number of mindset books out there that can help to change the way people think.
- Friendship – it’s an old cliché that a problem shared is a problem halved, but it’s one of the truest. Humans are social creatures and building a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can provide the support we need to help manage the stress factors in our lives. Whether that’s just by going for a coffee with a colleague, or feeling confident enough to speak to your peers/manager about a problem you might be facing, not feeling alone is vital.
- Hydrate – according to WebMD, the link between water intake and stress reduction is well documented. The human body, especially our brains, need water to function properly. Dehydration makes you more susceptible to stress by increasing the body’s cortisol levels.
- Selfcare – this has become a real buzz-word of late, but it’s one of those things we can’t hide from. Selfcare works and it’s important to take time, however small, to do the things that make us happy. Whether that’s listening to your favourite music, taking a nap or playing with a pet, every little bit counts. It’s important to have a variety of tricks up your selfcare sleeve so, when you might be feeling overwhelmed, you always have something at your disposal to help. Knowing your colleagues and team on an individual level allows you to help by making supportive suggestions.
- Sleep – another cortisol reduction technique, sleep is proven to help reduce stress. Everything looks better and more positive after a good night’s sleep, which is where the term ‘sleep on it’ comes from. So, should you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, you should really ask yourself where can an extra hour or two of sleep be fitted in.
- Sunshine – if you work inside a dark office during the day or live in the northern hemisphere, you might not be getting enough daylight. According to the American Institute of Stress, exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights during the morning hours helps to reduce depression and stress levels. You can improve the calibration of your circadian rhythm by making sure you get lots of daylight. If that’s not possible, perhaps talk to your GP about a vitamin D supplement or invest in a small light therapy device to use.
Stressors are like stones in a bucket. If we let them pile up then our bucket will either overflow or tip over. However, if we work on reducing them, this lightens the load and the bucket is then easier to carry.