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10 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace

If you didn’t know, April is stress awareness month. Over the next 30 days, health care professionals and experts will be organising events to raise awareness of the impact it can have on our lives. One area where we encounter considerably higher levels of stress, of course, is the workplace.

In manageable doses, it’s actually good for us. When employee stress gets out of hand, however, it not only impacts on performance and productivity but can damage emotional and physical health if allowed to carry on unchecked.

According to the NHS, nearly half a million of us take time off work due to stress-related illnesses each year. About 11 million days are also lost and two of the most common causes are workload pressures combined with lack of the right support.

The good news is there are several ways that employees and employers can help reduce the impact of excessive anxiety and stress in the workplace.

1. Activity Takes Off the Edge

Exercise has long been used to combat stress. It doesn’t have to be high impact either – a walk or a lunchtime activity session such as yoga can certainly help to reduce the emotional impact when you’re under pressure. In general, being active maintains mental wellbeing and employers can do their part by promoting exercise in the workplace.

2. Taking Control

If you feel under stress, it can be tempting to bottle it all up and keep things to yourself. After all, you don’t want to be the weak link in the company. Facing up to your stress, however, and finding ways to cope with it, is a much healthier option. If you take a passive approach, the chances are that the stress will get worse. Most experts believe that taking control and doing something is far more beneficial.

3. Create a Support Network

One hurdle in many workplaces is that those under stress feel they are the only people suffering. Employers can do a lot to improve this situation by making sure there is a good support network in place. This can include educating the work force and encouraging people to talk about their experiences, dispelling the notion that not coping with stress is a sign of weakness.

4. Work Life Balance

There’s much said about work life balance nowadays. So many of us work for the sake of it and get embroiled in a cycle that raises the stress levels and never seems to end. Taking a step back and looking at whether you have the balance right is important. Are you spending too little time with your family? Are you thinking about work even when you should be having some ‘me’ time? Do you have trouble sleeping? All these could be signs that you need to adjust your balance.

5. Developing Emotional Resilience

Some people cope with stress better than others. If you want to improve your performance under stress, try challenging yourself in different ways – set goals and deadlines and see if you can meet them. This can help build up your resilience and could mean you are able to cope with a range of situations better.

6. Don’t Be Unhealthy

There’s nothing that exacerbates stress more than unhealthy lifestyle choices. These include eating bad foods, drinking too much and smoking. Men are more likely to turn to this kind of ‘stress relief’ than women. The truth is that bad habits do little or nothing to solve or alleviate the problem of stress. Employers can help in this respect by introducing wellness programmes that encourage staff to lead healthier lives.

7. Meditation and Relaxation

Slowing down your mind and concentrating on one thing, such as your breathing, can help relieve periods of stress. According to research carried out in the US, a short course in mindfulness helped staff in one business to develop greater focus and also made them feel less negative about their work. It’s a practice that can be done individually or as a group and has shown to have a wide range of health benefits.

8. Working Smarter

Anxiety and stress in the workplace can also be caused by bad working practices. Changing the way you operate could therefore make a big difference. If you tend to leave the big tasks until last, doing these first can get them out the way early in the day and give you a sense of achievement. You are generally a lot more alert early in the day rather than towards the end. Employers can help their staff to be smarter by introducing flexible working and by providing training on more productive work practices.

9. Change Your Environment

Where we work is important. Changing the look and feel of the environment can make a big difference to stress levels. Personalising your space could make you feel part of the team, introducing natural light and some healthy plants may positively transform an office or work area and providing a community space will allow people to relax and socialise.

10. Get Some Sleep

Finally, one of the major things that impacts on employee stress is lack of sleep. You go home still thinking about your job, find it difficult to get enough quality rest and get into work next morning with a lack of energy and drive. There’s a lot you can do to promote a better night’s sleep and these are all well worth trying. For example, avoid caffeine during the evening, don’t take your smartphone into the bedroom with you and try to go to sleep at the same time every night to get your body used to the routine.

Managing stress in the workplace is not easy. Tackling it proactively, however, can mean that you improve the health of your employees, reduce the time spent off work and boost productivity at the same time.

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