Dealing With Stress in the Workplace

Stress in the workplaceWorkplace stress is not only detrimental to your productivity, it also affects your well-being and life outside of the office.

And it’s actually often worse for women. Women are more likely than men to admit to suffering from a high level of stress according to the APA, at 28% compared with 20%. Women also tend to experience more physical and emotional issues triggered by stress, such as headaches (44% compared with 15%) and being almost brought to tears (41% against 30%).

Famous businesswoman and author Arianna Huffington referred to 2013 via a LinkedIn post as “the year we prioritise beating stress.” That was five years ago, so it’s high time we start doing this. Stress stops both men and women from being able to reach their full potential, and it’s important to stop burying our heads in the sand and make an effort to deal with it. As such, below are several useful ways to help you get started in beating workplace stress.

Pinpoint the Origin

The first thing to do is understand what it is that triggers your stress. For example, when you find yourself undergoing feelings of anxiety, write down what you were doing preceding this. Keeping a log will help you narrow down what causes you the most stress and then you can start to deal with it in a more focused manner. Was it a certain colleague who triggered it? A badly worded critique? Or perhaps a task you find difficult? The more detail you add about the situation, the better you can approach overcoming your stressors, and be able to juggle your workload with more ease.

Talk to Your Superior

After writing your “stress log,” you might come up with workplace anxiety triggers that you can’t tackle alone. If this is the case, it might be time to bring your manager on board. Your manager is there to help if your situation involves having a conflict with a colleague or if you feel like you’re being expected to do too much. Calmly explain the problem and try to come up with the solutions together. It’s likely he or she will respect you for sharing the issues and being open rather than keeping it all to yourself and eventually burning out and/or needing time off work.

Open communication is key here. Your manager is not only there to supervise you but also help you cope with workplace issues that might affect your performance (which can also have a negative effect on the business as a whole). If your manager knows the situation, he or she will understand what you’re going through and might even help you deal with it by giving advice or, if things get worse, putting in place a few workplace changes to help you cope better.

Talk to Your Friends or Colleagues

If talking to management isn’t an option, or you feel like the stress is the result of you being a perfectionist rather than other external issues, chat to someone else, such as your friends or colleagues. Unloading your problems through communication often unloads some of the stress as well, so for your health and wellbeing, speak to someone you trust. You may wish to speak to a counsellor or psychologist.

Get Some Exercise

Exercising is an excellent way to cope with stress. However, women don’t tend to engage in physical activity as a way of dealing with stress like men do. According to the APA, 16% of men get active as a response to feeling overwhelmed, while only 4% of women do. Regular exercise will also help you sleep better, which can lead to feeling less stressed at work. Remember that stress impacts sleep, and vice-versa—a vicious cycle you don’t want to be in.

Stress can be viewed in mental and physical terms, and doing something to manage it better in both fronts is a more holistic way of dealing with stress. Also, exercise and getting enough sleep help refresh employees, and refreshed employees are more productive. If not being productive is your source of stress, then you’re basically a step closer to solving it just by exercising. Exercising can include walking or yoga or more strenuous exercise such as running and cycling.

Switch Off After Work and Take Breaks

For regular employees, you’re likely being paid to work eight or nine hours a day, so stop checking your emails after office hours. Enjoy being at home to create a calmer environment where you can truly relax. This will leave you more able to tackle your work the next day, as well as the stress that comes with it. You’ll also be a more productive employee as a result.

The same goes if you’re an entrepreneur—running a business doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7. Give yourself time to recover, relax, and de-stress outside of your business. Doing so not only recharges your body but could also give you a better perspective of your business, and how to deal with the stress-inducing issues that come with it. So, whether you’re an employee in a corporation or your own boss, make sure to maximise holidays and take a week’s at least every six months. Running your stressed self to the ground isn’t a healthy way to live life, and you’d want to be physically able to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Seek Help from the Experts

And by experts we mean women and men who’ve had successful careers despite being in stressful businesses, industries, and environments. Stress in the workplace is a reality of adult life, and these experienced business people know how to deal with it. They’ve “been there, done that” so listen to what they say.

This is why it’s certainly beneficial to join an organisation where women can help fellow women achieve greater heights. Behind Closed Doors is a leading network of business and career women which offers mentoring and networking aimed towards the professional development of women. Being a member and with the help of fellow members, you’ll have access to resources and interactions that will help you better deal with workplace issues such as stress, and enhance your capabilities and experience, letting you progress further in your chosen career path.


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