1st November 2017 marks National Stress Awareness Day in the UK, and the South African government even declared the whole month of October to be Mental Health Awareness Month, “with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to.”
Even though there may not be a public holiday to mark the event in South Africa, stress is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed in the country throughout the year, as a study by Bloomberg revealed in 2013 that South Africa was the second most-stressed country in the world, following Nigeria.
This could be contributed partly to the results of a global study by Ipsos and Reuters that revealed that more than half of South Africans do not take their annual leave, which is only equal to 15 working days in the first place. Comparatively, in Europe, the average worker takes five weeks of holiday a year.
With all this in mind, here are five tips to help you to manage workplace stress and focus on prioritising stress management in your life.
1. Watch out for signs
If you start to develop any symptoms that may cause you to become less productive at work, such as anxiety and depression, loss of interest, insomnia, fatigue, speak to someone or try to address the possible causes. Ask yourself what the potential correlation could be between your stress symptoms and tasks you do on a daily basis. It could be worth trying to keep a diary for a few weeks to spot trends and pinpoint issues.
Some factors may be beyond your control, but if there is a problem that could and should be corrected, then it’s up to you to determine if and how you can make a change. If the cause of your stress is something that violates your basic rights then it should be raised with the appropriate higher authority. This could be anything from bullying, to an unhealthy work environment or offensive colleague habits.
2. Take care of yourself
It’s important to take care of your physical and emotional health to build up your internal resilience against stress. Regular exercise and eating healthily can help significantly. Try to consume less oil and sugar, and eat more fruit and vegetables. Drink lots of water, and be sure to get enough sleep every night. You can enhance these aspects of your wellbeing by taking meditation breaks at work, walking during lunch, or standing at your desk for periods of time instead of sitting.
Work out a way to always take a time-out each day. Time away from your desk for lunch and regular breathers should help to alleviate stress, and planning holidays at evenly spaced intervals throughout the year can also make a big difference. It’s important to make an effort each day to disconnect from the stresses of your job, so try to set yourself boundaries by not taking work home with you, or working too much overtime, or postponing holidays.
Often we don’t prioritise managing our stress as it’s easy to justify that there’s something more urgent to do. However, the less we manage our stress, the more inefficient we can become. As a result, it’s important to set aside time to do things for our greater good, such as exercising, reading, meditation, or connecting with friends and family.
Try to be firm in your resolve and stick to prioritising your needs, even when other pressing matters arise. Cognitive restructuring and mindfulness are two techniques that can help you to do this. Cognitive restructuring is a way in which to recognise and change any irrational thinking patterns, such as negative self-talk. Mindfulness teaches you how to live in the present moment and be liberated from any future-oriented thinking or angst from any events that happened in the past.
3. Be organised
Managing your time well can help to reduce stress. It could be worth investing in an online project management platform or a time management app on your smartphone. Or just do simple things like make a list, set realistic time scales, prioritise your workload, and even delegate tasks. Focus on achieving a balanced schedule that does not put unnecessary pressure on you — work smart, not hard so that you can leave work on time and give yourself breaks during the day.
4. Work on your Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
How you deal with external stimuli can impact your daily stress levels and self-control. Learn to communicate with your colleagues in a way that reduces tension and encourages everyone to solve problems proactively as a team.
Notice when you or other people are stressed, and try to give and receive feedback compassionately. Make use of your support network and learn to talk about your feelings with family, friends, health professionals, or even your manager or supervisor. Simply talking about difficult situations and your feelings can help to relieve stress and help those around you to be aware of any triggers you may have.
5. Take a Stress Quotient™ assessment to measure your stress
TTI Success Insights South Africa aims to help organisations to diagnose stress and uncover the causes. A Stress Quotient assessment can show you how to explore seven common causes of stress in the workplace, and to make a plan to address problem areas and lower stress levels.
If your financial situation or future goals are stressing you out, then don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to address any issues that are causing your anxiety. Don’t suffer on your own in silence when solutions can sometimes easily be found.