Stress at work can be very difficult to avoid, especially if you are stuck behind a desk.
Combined with long hours, it can take a serious toll on mental health, especially for women according to a new study.
The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that women who put in 55 hours or more every week at work had a higher risk of depression. Working weekends also increased depression risk for both men and women.
Researchers looked at data from Understanding Society, the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), collected from more than 23,000 men and women.
Women often had to juggle work with household duties and caring for family members.
But there were a few factors that seemed to affect mental health no matter the person’s gender. Older workers, workers who smoke, those who earned the least, and those who had the least control at their jobs tended to be more depressed when compared with other workers.
Psychological problems, including stress, anxiety and depression, are behind one in five visits to a GP. Stress can also affect many other behaviours, with some using food as a form of comfort, and others losing their appetite and struggling to eat at all.
This Stress Awareness Month, Priory expert Steve Clarke, a psychotherapist and therapy services manager at the Priory’s Life Works Hospital in Woking, Surrey, says: “Recent statistics on stress and burnout emphasise the importance of treating such conditions as promptly as possible, in order to improve the lives of those struggling to cope. In the past year alone, a reported 74 per cent of people surveyed had felt so stressed at some point, they had been too overwhelmed to cope with everyday tasks.
“In the UK, 12.5 million working days are lost each year due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety and in 2016/17, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 40 per cent of all work-related ill health cases and 49 per cent of all working days lost due to ill-health.”
He says there some things employees can do themselves to try and manage their own stress.
They can be carried out during the working day, at a desk.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Repetitive finger tapping can sometimes help to release negative emotions such as anxiety. It has been called a psychological version of acupuncture in that it involves making contact with a number of acupuncture points. The specific points to tap are the end-points of the major meridians (meridians are believed to be channels of subtle energy which flow through our body). So, whilst focusing on your negative emotion you tap on a ‘meridian’ point (the eyebrow, side of the eye, under eye, under nose, chin, collarbone, under the arm and top of the head) three to seven times, repeating your negative thought in your head. After each emotion, take a deep breath and exhale. Continue this until you feel calmer and relieved. When you feel more relieved, repeat the technique whilst you tap through a “positive round”, repeating more uplifting phrases.
Guided meditation apps
Many apps like Headspace offer different types of meditation for different concerns, or simply basic meditation. These typically offer meditation as short as three minutes and up to 20 minute sessions.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This can also be done at any time during the day. PMR involves tensing and releasing muscles in certain intervals. There are guided versions available online for free on YouTube.
Take a long deep breath while counting for 5-8 seconds, then hold it for 5-8 seconds. Repeat several times to relieve anxious/stressed feelings. This can help re-centre you during a busy work day.
Avoid comfort eating and instead choose food that increases your energy and gives you sustainable nutrients to get you through the day.
Prevention is key
Plan out your week or day ahead and create a checklist of things that need to be completed by priority. Give yourself enough time to complete each task and schedule regular breaks to avoid burnout. Reward yourself for completing tasks, even if it’s as simple as crossing it off the checklist.
Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible
So accept what you cannot change and focus on the things you do have control over – such as looking for another job.
Put on headphones and listening to music can have many benefits, such as helping you relax and focus on something you enjoy
Take a walk – even it’s just to the water station and back to your desk. Ideally, enjoy some fresh air. Changing your environment can clear your mind and re-energise you.
About the author
The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into three divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, and adult care. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.