How to manage your stress levels

stressed woman

Stress is an ever-growing problem in the workplace and it affects nearly all of us.

Did you know that a recent The Guardian survey revealed that three in four Britons have felt overwhelmed with stress during the past 12 months?

Jaime Cattermole, Director, leading employee research consultancy, The Survey Initiative, discusses how to get a grip of your own stress levels.

It’s not often discussed but stress can be good for us! The chemicals released when we’re stressed – dopamine, adrenaline, nor adrenaline and cortisol – prepare our bodies for action, and dopamine is the key ingredient for learning.  But too much stress over a sustained period of time is detrimental to us physically as well as mentally. Sadly, it’s the effects of being over-stressed which is damaging many people’s wellbeing.

So, how do we manage stress?

Stress is an individual experience. A stressor for one person will, to another, be exhilarating and motivating. First off, it’s best to consider if your job is right for you? If a company recruits the right people for the job, this does help to prevent stressful employees. Organisations can align roles and individuals by looking at their suitability in terms of personality, motivation and capability for every single position. We’re all delighted to get a new job, or be offered promotion, but sometimes we have to take a stand back and think is this really right for me?

Managing yourself in a fast-paced world

We live in a fast-moving society where things are constantly changing offering us new challenges.  Sometimes we all need to reflect and become aware of what their stressors are – this can be achieved through reflection, personality and motivation psychometrics, or through talking things through with colleagues, family, or someone in your workplace.

Ideally employees can discuss their stress levels with their line manager. A highly skilled middle manager should have the capability to discuss issues one-to-one with their staff where they can identify issues and create resolutions – to act as a coach and support the individuals in their team through a process of self-discovery. This process is also about the individual developing strategies to help them handle stressful times.  Here all the old adages apply – take breaks, get active, drink plenty of water and look after your general wellbeing.

Thankfully, the world is moving on and a lot of the stigma around mental health has gone, which should help everyone be more ‘open’ to counselling, meditation, or exploring new mindfulness techniques such as keeping a journal, spending time doing a hobby, learning something new, or having fun with friends.

When stress is really getting you down…

Sometimes stress just gets too much and your doctor may sign-you off work. Having time to relax and reflect is good for you, but make sure you don’t dwell and worry about whether your work is piling up in the office. Again, consult with your line manager and talk to your HR team and try and keep an open dialogue whilst you’re away to take account of your recovery, but also plan your re-introduction to the workplace. I often find that HRs act like they simply just don’t know what to do, or feel a little ‘embarrassed’ to ask – leave people to it, and the individual becomes more and more isolated, which makes returning to work even harder. Don’t let this happen to you, be open and honest and set the agenda.

Set up a stress check!

Talk to your line manager about setting-up a workplace stress check. The only way to really discuss stress is if everyone is open and honest about the situation. A great way to get stress part of the workplace conversation is to make it visible. I was in an office yesterday where they had three jars with red, orange and green ping pong balls – people chose a ball to indicate their level of stress, this is a great idea to gauge levels of stress in the workplace and to bring stress out into the public arena.

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Jaime JohnsonAbout the author

Jaime founded The Survey Initiative in 2006 following a career in employee research. She heads up the data analysis team and is dedicated to creating employee research solutions that deliver real results.

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