A recent study suggests that work stress raises the risk of heart disease in women under the age of 50. This warning should be particularly taken note of by UK working women, as Government figures showing that one in five people in the country suffer from stress at work.
It doesn’t matter who you are, how senior you are, this culture can get to you. You can get burnt out. A combination of heavy load (often exacerbated in a recession as the old teams are reduced in size), increased pressure and unreasonable behaviours by seniors can lead to fatigued, stressed, disgruntled, burnt out employees.
If the level of work stress you are experiencing is affecting your health it is time to stop, think and make a change.
If you find yourself exhausted in the office, surviving off regular doses of coffee and collapsing when you reach the weekend – you are suffering from stress to the extent that you are burning out. If you do not get this under control you can get seriously ill if you are not careful.
It is a challenge getting the right balance between hard work and good health. Here are some steps to help you keep the stresses of work under control:
Think hard about whether you are in the right role. Ask yourself some hard questions:
- Do you enjoy what you are doing?
- Is it interesting, fun, stimulating?
- Do the hours work for you?
- Is the working environment good for you?
- Is there a good progression path?
- Does the role suit your values, passions and strengths?
- Are you burnt out all the time? Is it worth it?
If it is becoming obvious that maybe this isn’t the most suitable role or place for you to be in then you have the option to change it! It is better to be in the right role and position for you than not. You will be much happier and healthier all around if you live the lifestyle that you want.
1. Improve your time management
Cut down on inefficient uses of your time and activities that are draining you. Reduce the late nights out, especially when you have to get up early the next day. Prepare everything you will can for the next day the evening before e.g. clothes, documents, meeting preparation and so on. This will save panic and stress in the morning or during the day. Create to do lists to help you stay on top of things. Use it as a checklist you can tick off tasks from. It will keep you focused and also make you feel good when you have achieved each task.
2. Watch your diet
What you eat can affect your energy levels and therefore how you cope with the amount of work and stress you are under. Cut down on ready meals, take-outs and fast food. Eat more fresh vegetables, fruit and manage your diet. The healthier you are the less susceptible to stress you will be. It is easy to let your diet suffer when time is limited but by taking short cuts you will make things worse. You need to maintain your health if you are to carry on with your work focused lifestyle.
If you do not have time to exercise, make time! Early in the morning, after work, on the weekends or during your lunchtime. Perhaps even flex your working hours to fit it in if you can. It is important. Keeping fit will make you feel better, give you more energy, make your brain work more efficiently and effectively and overall help your performance at work. You will be in a much better position to handle the stress and strain you may be under.
4. Flex your working hours
See if there is some flexibility around your work. Talk to your boss. Explore whether working from home is an option. Having just one day at home every now and again can really help with your energy levels by cutting out travel and giving you more control over when and how you work. You might want to get into work slightly earlier and leave earlier, or get in later and stay later in order to avoid rush hour and traffic. You can reduce the time needed to travel and hence save a lot of energy. See if you can manage your timetable to help avoid longer travel journeys. If you are burnt out and under immense stress then anything you can do to help with your energy levels is crucial.
5. Manage your workload
If your workload is overwhelming and too much to handle, see if you can delegate it or get your colleagues and team mates to help out with different elements to spread the load. If you cannot do that, be smart in how you spend your time and what you prioritise. It is also important that you communicate what you are doing with those you are working with. Making others aware of your priorities, tasks and workload will help them in identifying how much more to give you or perhaps how to work more effectively with you to help achieve your goals.
Nisa Chitakasem is the co-founder of Position Ignition – a careers company dedicated to taking you to the next step in your career. Nisa is passionate about helping individuals find the right career path for them whether it involves finding a more rewarding career, making a career change, figuring out the right career plan or being creative about career directions.
Find out more about Position Ignition here