We Brits are hard workers. So much so, that in 2011 BUPA discovered that only 30% of employees take a recommended hour break, and more than a third experienced pressure from their managers to work though their lunches.
But the overworked can quickly become stressed, and excessive stress can interfere with productivity and (more importantly) your physical and emotional health.
The problem is, many of us are in self-denial about how stressed we really are. Another trait of the British – we don’t admit weakness!
But seriously, take a look at the list of symptoms below:
· Unable to concentrate
· Feeling overwhelmed
· Frequent colds
· Sleeping too much or too little
· Frequent headaches
· Decreased sex drive
· Anxious feelings
· Frequent mood swings
· Social withdrawal
· Weight gain or loss
Starting to sound familiar? It’s important not to ignore signs of stress, because otherwise it will only get worse. Instead, learn how to handle and overcome stress by following these 7 tips:
We experience stress when we feel situations are out of our control.
At work, there will always be forces that you can’t control, but it’s important to remember the things that you can control: your actions and your responses.
Pinpoint your sources of stress, and consider what you can do to resolve these concerns. If you’re overwhelmed with a project for example, who can you go to for help/clarification? Focus on what you can change, and try to let the rest go.
You know how much time each work task should take, so don’t allow yourself to take on an impossible workload.
If you’re asked to do more work but are already extremely busy, then say so.
Be sure to explain why you’re busy, and exactly how long it will take you before you are able to take on the new piece of work. If you can offer some sort of solution, like passing the work to another team member, then do so.
Researchers found that just looking at a cluttered desk can spur the body’s production of stress hormones.
If your desk is covered in papers, take a break to go through it all and sort it out. Invest in a folder or paper-tray, and resolve to stay organised, even if it means setting an hour each week to staying organised.
If you’re constantly juggling different tasks and projects, use a to-do list or calendar to simplify your goals and keep on track.
Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, and can even lower blood pressure!
Also, working with you headphones in gives you a bit of a break from everybody else, people will tend to leave you alone as they will assume you are listening to something important.
Take the time to eat a proper, nutritional lunch. Don’t use the excuse of being too busy – you’re entitled to a break so use it!
Ignore fatty, sugary foods that you think will ‘pick you up’. You’ll only ‘crash’ a few hours later. Fruits and vegetables are always good, and fish has been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress (because of the omega-3) – so don’t feel bad for choosing the tuna sandwich!
And NEVER skip breakfast. A good breakfast will set you up with the right amount of energy to carry you through the day.
Make sure you get a decent night’s sleep before work. Practice ‘good sleep hygiene’; go to bed and wake up at the same time, and don’t drink caffeine or alcohol before bedtime.
I know that this isn't always easy, and that some professions, such as teachers, rely heavily on marking work after school hours.
However, if you can, make an effort to separate work from home life. That means no checking work emails, or taking work calls!