It’s only a month into the new year and already many of us are so stressed, it’s as if the holidays never even happened. If you are one of the people who picked up your work-related anxiety exactly where you left off in December, it’s probably time to find a way to calm and centre yourself so that you can enjoy some peace in the remaining 45 weeks of the year.
We’ve taken a look at some of the most common causes of stress in the work place, and provided suggestions to help you overcome them:
One of the main reasons that people stress at work is that they are sometimes forced to engage with people they don’t get along with. If there is such a person in your workplace, accept that they are never going to change, and try to come up with a plan for not letting them get to you. If the other person’s behaviour is genuinely unacceptable or constitutes harassment, arrange a meeting to discuss your options with HR.
Remember to limit your own toxic behaviour, and respond politely and kindly, no matter how you are provoked.
Work can feel overwhelming if you don’t break it down into manageable chunks. Find a time management strategy that works for you. They are all variations of allocating tasks to the time available – both daily, weekly and monthly, prioritising certain activities but not neglecting less urgent ones, negotiating on unrealistic deadlines, and making sure that everything gets completed.
Often, there are tasks on your to do list that you hate doing. These tasks loom over you while you devote your time to other, less important matters, all the while in a panic about the task you’re avoiding. Focus on do the thing you least want to do first thing in the morning, so that you get it out of the way. You’ll feel like a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders.
If you’re truly sick of your job or the work that you do, and it’s making you unhappy, start looking for ways to move on. Apply for new positions at your company or somewhere new. Meet with your manager to discuss your next career step. Do a course to prepare for a promotion, or learn something in an entirely new field. If nothing else, try to find new ways of doing your current job that excite or challenge you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed because you have too much on your plate and not enough support, start making plans to or having discussions about how to improve your situation. Explain to your boss why you aren’t coping with your workload. Try to work out whether you can delegate to other people. Don’t take on anything new until you’ve cleared your desk.
While you should try to find things at work that make you happy, it’s also important to acknowledge that you might be wasting your time on certain activities. These include office gossip, taking too many breaks, or spending too much time on social media or chat services. Be honest with yourself about whether you spend most of your day in a panic because you’re busy with things that aren’t actually work, and if that’s the case, stop doing those things.
You can also download Freedom, an application that blocks your access to email, certain websites and social media for selected time periods, to make sure that you focus on the task at hand.
In a story about workplace stress, it would be remiss not to mention that home admin also needs to be kept under control. Use the same techniques of time management and delegation we’ve outlined above in your home life to deal with bills, lifts, shopping and home maintenance so that those issues aren’t adding to your already work-burdened mind.
The problem with work is that it can become all consuming. Look at the other important parts of your life – family, friends, leisure, hobbies, relaxation – and find ways to factor in positive time for all of these. And don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself – balance isn’t only about finding the time in your schedule to look out for other people.
Remember that a healthy mind and body are crucial in reducing stress. Make time for exercise and eating well, avoid heavy drinking and get enough sleep. Do yoga or a meditation course. Practice mindfulness by attempting to be fully focused on whatever task is at hand, freeing your mind from the clutter of other demands. Make time for a hobby that makes you feel peaceful and fulfilled.
Don’t neglect niggling health issues. Make the medical appointments that you need early in the year, and listen to your body so you respond to problems when they are easy to fix.
And manage your stress – if your anxiety is escalating and you feel out of control or continuously sad, apathetic or afraid, and are unable to resolve things, get professional help through an organisation like the South African Depression and Anxiety Group or with a referral from your GP.
Times are tough, money is tight, and the demands of work are stressful. If you are feeling overwhelmed, use this list to try to ease some of the burdens. It’s going to be a challenging year anyway, so find ways to be gentle with and supportive of yourself. Good luck!