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How to manage your workplace stress ‒ and when to call it quits

By Charlotte Grainger

 

Take care of yourself ‒ manage your work stress.

Are you suffering from work-related stress? While most of us try to find a healthy work-life balance, sometimes our responsibilities can get the best of us. Worse still, if your stress levels are always high, it could have a seriously negative impact on your health. Here’s what you need to know about how to manage workplace stress and what you can do next.

The main signs of work-related stress

Now and then, we all experience a dose of stress. You may have an extremely busy period at work or a major project on the horizon, for example. However, in both of these instances, the stress is usually short-lived and passes soon enough. If you are experiencing work-related stress on a daily basis, though, it could be a serious cause for concern.

Worried that the pressures of your job are impacting your everyday health? The easiest way to figure out if you have a problem is to look at the most common signs of stress. The mental health charity, Mind, lists the following work-stress symptoms:

  • Irritability and aggression
  • Anxiety and nerves
  • Racing thoughts
  • A sense of dread
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Nail-biting and picking your skin
  • Constant worry
  • Sickness and dizziness
  • Headaches and chest pains
  • High blood pressure

If you find that you are experiencing any of these symptoms regularly, it’s worth taking a close look at some stress-management techniques. Now, one of these signs alone may not be indicative of harmful workplace stress, but if you have a combination of all of the above, it could mean that your work life is affecting both your mental and physical health.

How to manage your work stress

Should you find that you’re struggling with work-related stress, it’s crucial that you take action as soon as possible. Of course, one way of managing this issue is to speak to your doctor and see what advice they offer you. You could also try some small tips to help you deal with the problem. With that in mind, here are four things you could try:

Ask for support from co-workers

Speaking to your co-workers about your stress could be one way to go. They are in the same figurative boat as you, which means that they will understand what you’re going through. A problem shared is a problem halved, so don’t be afraid to speak up here! Camaraderie and solidarity can be valuable in making you feel calmer at work.

Reach out to your friends and family

Having a decent social support network is a smart way to deal with stress. Research suggests that something as simple as a hug from a friend or family member can lessen feelings of stress and distress. Do all you can to strengthen your social bonds and talk to those around you when you feel you have too much on your plate.

Talk to your manager (and be honest)

When your work-related stress is affecting you each and every day, you need to be honest about it. Talking directly to your manager could be one of the ways to go. Explain what it is that’s making you stressed and how you envision they can help; it might be as simple as lightening your workload. Be honest about what you need.

Exercise regularly and eat well

Do you make the time to exercise? When you’re ultra busy, the last thing on your mind could be hitting the gym. However, getting active has been linked to lower overall stress levels. Ensuring that you exercise regularly is key. You should also look to improve your nutrition and make sure that you eat well on a daily basis. When you fuel yourself with healthy foods, you feel better. Look after yourself in these small ways and your physical health will carry over to your mental health.

How to decide when enough is enough

With any luck, the above tips, along with some potential help from your doctor, should be enough to help you manage your workplace stress levels. However, if your stress is quite extreme, you may be headed for a burnout. The Harvard Business Review reports that there are three components to this issue: exhaustion (loss of energy), cynicism (low enthusiasm), and inefficacy (low self-confidence and difficulty working).

If you are experiencing one or even all three of these signs, you might want to consider more drastic action, like leaving your job. Ignoring the problem will only mean that it worsens over time; stress can lead to concerns such as depression, heart problems, and a high risk of stroke and diabetes. Of course, quitting your job is a huge decision and one you can’t take lightly, but if work is the cause of harmful, long-term stress, your best bet may be to eliminate the cause. This may feel like giving up, but remember that your health is paramount ‒ an action taken to preserve you and keep you happy is a worthwhile one.

Should you feel that the only course of action is to move roles, it’s wise to put tools in place to help you leave: Update your current CV, start looking for new roles and ask around to see if there are any leads. Taking these steps could help you to feel more confident about finding your next job when you quit.

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