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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

Remaining Healthy at Work

A certain level of stress at work is often unavoidable.

But, if you find it’s becoming difficult to deal with that stress on a daily basis, it’s important to be proactive before it turns into a real problem.

Workplace stress can be damaging to both your mental and physical health. It may lead to anxiety and depression, or damage your personal relationships outside work.

Almost a third of Australian workers regularly feel a high level of stress at work and say that this impacts their job satisfaction.

If you don’t feel happy at work, it will impact all other areas of your life. This is why it’s important to have a strategy in place to deal with any stress you experience at work before it becomes a serious problem. There are various factors at work that may contribute to a high-stress level. These include:

  • Excessively high workload

  • Poor support from management and colleagues

  • Long hours with insufficient breaks

  • Job insecurity

  • Workplace discrimination or bullying

  • Unrealistic targets or time pressures

Identifying what is causing your stress at work can help you to combat it. If you’re facing unrealistic targets or a heavy workload, your first step should be to talk to your line manager and explain the pressures you’re feeling and how they’re impacting on your mental health. It is important to look after your own mental health, to make sure you are OK and have the freedom and confidence to deliver your role in the best way you can. One way to look after yourself is to start noticing how you are feeling, reacting and behaving, and any changes that might be occurring. This can be a key indicator that you may need to talk or access support, and enables you to take steps to look after your own mental well-being.

It can be helpful to take stock of your emotions and make sure you do the small things, like taking regular breaks and keeping hydrated. These are often the things we stop doing when we are not feeling our best. It’s also important to acknowledge how you feel and monitor your emotional reactions. Talking with someone else about your problems always helps. Beyond this, there are a number of steps you can take yourself to reduce the impact of workplace stress on a daily basis and help you to feel happier and more fulfilled at work.

Exercise Regularly

Physical exercise can have a huge impact on mental health and has been proven to prevent and manage depression. Physically getting away from the place that is responsible for the stress you feel, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, can also help to give you a mental break. With a healthy break, you can return to work feeling better prepared to tackle your day. Spending time in nature has also been shown to reduce levels of cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’ – as well as boosting your concentration, creative thinking skills, and reducing mental fatigue.

Instead of sitting at your desk for your lunch break, make sure you get up and get outside for a quick walk to refresh both your body and mind.

Take Time to Plan and Organise

Being disorganised can add to stress levels, reduce your productivity, and cause you to fall behind with work projects, which can make your workload seem even more overwhelming. Take just a few minutes at the beginning of your day to plan out your work for the day. Use this time to make sure long-term projects are scheduled properly so that you have enough time to do everything effectively. If you manage others, make sure their workload is organised properly too, and that any deadlines and commitments are clearly defined.

Eat Healthily and Stay Hydrated

It can be tempting to eat unhealthy snacks and fast foods when you’re busy at work, but this is not helpful for either your physical or mental health. Caffeine and sugar may provide a temporary boost of energy but this quickly wears off, leading to a ‘crash’ that can make you feel tired, stressed, and irritable. Aim to keep your blood sugar levels at work steady by opting for slow-release carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Avoid drinking too much coffee at work and make a point of drinking plenty of water. There’s evidence that dehydration can increase stress levels. A quick trip to the water cooler is a good excuse to stretch your legs and get away from your desk for a few minutes.

Don’t ignore stress.Ignoring stress is one of the worst things you can do for your mental health. Failing to manage stress properly can result in burnout or lead to other mental health issues. Practice stress-relieving activities on a daily basis and educate yourself on different stress-coping tactics. Organise your work-space. A clean and organised work-space is a great way to alleviate stress. A cluttered desk can make you feel anxious, disorganised, and flustered. Start cleaning and organising your work-space once a week to help boost your mental health.Earning a living doesn't need to cost you your health. There are plenty of things you can do to make sure you stay healthy and happy at work.

  • Don't ignore stress

  • Don't sit all day

  • When you sit, sit properly

  • Avoid overworked muscles

  • Look after your eyes

For most of us our time at work takes up much of our waking life. While there's no denying that work can cause stress, aches and pains, it doesn't have to be a negative experience. There are plenty of changes you can make that can help make your work life happier, healthier and more productive.

Don't ignore stress

There's no denying that work can be stressful, but sometimes it's the way we think, rather than situations themselves that leave us feeling overwhelmed. A job that seems too difficult or demanding might be more manageable if you let go of certain beliefs, such as the notion that you should never make mistakes, or that everyone in your workplace needs to approve of you all time.

There are also some great online resources that can help you learn about stress – and the role your thinking style can play in exacerbating it. Also, if you feel overwhelmed at work, you might talk to your supervisor or look at your work style. As well, it can help to:

  • Create boundaries between work and personal time. Try not to take work home with you, check your emails outside work hours, or think about work after you knock off.

  • Stay connected with family and friends when you're not working.

  • Try to say no to extra work.

  • Schedule regular breaks at work – no matter how busy you are.

  • Get regular exercise.

  • Spend time every day doing things just for you: i.e. regularly do a hobby or activity you enjoy, or catch up with friends.

  • Manage irrational or negative thoughts such as "I have to be responsible for everything": i.e. write down counterproductive thoughts and challenge them with positive or more realistic ones. Alternatively, seek advice on cognitive behaviour therapy or rational thinking skills training.

  • Research and employ stress-relief strategies, such as relaxation and meditation.

  • Avoid relying on drinking or using drugs to help you cope.

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