Stress accounts for 40% of all work-related illnesses and has remained a major problem for years. High-profile cases have highlighted that even those at the top aren't immune from the pressures of everyday working life and we're increasingly recognizing the need for a better literacy around psychological health issues.
Progressive organisations are adopting proactive ways to build employee resilience to avoid stress and exhaustion, based on the understanding that mental health is as important as physical health for wellbeing.
So, what steps can we take to develop coping strategies while still using the positive elements of pressure to boost our careers?
1. Take time for a proper break and look after your wellbeing
Eating well and taking regular exercise is essential for ensuring good levels of psychological wellbeing. Not only does physical activity release endorphins, which improve our mood, it also helps to relieve excess energy built up through stress.
With the majority of us working longer hours, it can be tempting to skip meals, but eating well and regularly is important. More than six million people skip their lunch break each day, which amounts to an estimated $50m in lost productivity, research suggests. Simple ways to boost energy levels include cutting down on caffeine and eating low sugar foods that release energy slowly. This will help to sustain energy levels and productivity while keeping stress hormones to a minimum.
2. Don't forget the power of conversation
Having face-to-face conversations can often solve issues quicker and establish a more personal rapport with colleagues. In particularly stressful situations, containing our emotions can actually damage our health, so taking time to have proper discussions with those around you will make a real difference to your wellbeing and performance at work.
3. Build strong social networks
Building relationships with colleagues will provide a reliable support network for episodes of stress and anxiety when the pressure is most intense. Working with those you trust and can rely on also boosts job satisfaction and motivation levels. These are key components of workplace resilience and will help to combat the rise of stress and anxiety, making it much easier to reach out for help if the pressure becomes too much. Arranging meals and lunchtime social activities together is an easy and direct way to bond more with those around you.
4. Make sure you unwind and take time out
Mobile technology means that we're finding it harder to switch off at the end of the working day and balance our priorities. The temptation to check emails late at night or at weekends means that we're more likely to worry as we find it difficult to distance ourselves from a working mindset. Set a cap on your working hours, switch off your emails and set aside time to relax. Take regular breaks to clear your head during the day too; going for a quick walk in the afternoon can help relieve nervous tension and help you to make more balanced decisions. Many organisations now offer employee assistance programmes, which give advice and guidance on how to ensure a healthy work-life balance.
5. Know your limits
Showing that you're able to manage competing pressures and priorities is an attractive attribute for prospective employers. But saying yes to every request and taking on more work than you can reasonably handle is detrimental both to your own wellbeing and performance. Remaining assertive will reduce the chance of over-burdening workloads and the pressure to meet unrealistic expectations. Retaining a strong sense of your own abilities will make sure that you perform to your best and help to prevent exhaustion and burnout in the long run.