5 suggestions to alleviate stress during work days
By Samantha Smith
Ph.D., Organisational Psychologist
Our recent 360 Well-Being Survey research revealed that 72% of British workers are currently suffering from workplace stress, but only 11% have spoken to a professional about it.
This worrying stat highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle and a good work/life balance, not to mention the impact on our stress, happiness levels and productivity at work.
With this is mind, we asked Samantha Smith Ph.D., Organisational Psychologist about her top tips for alleviating stress at work.
Five Suggestions to alleviate stress during work days
1. Find which organisational tools work best for you and use them to help you to plan for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and even annual work projects. Consider updating a daily prioritised ‘to do’ list based on your week’s schedule - tick off your most dreaded task first so that you feel lighter and more empowered for the rest of the day’s items. Being more aware of what is on your schedule can not only prevent you from missing important actions but can also help you provide a clearer picture to your manager of your work load.
2. Have a stressful meeting on your calendar? Try setting aside an extra 1-3 minutes before you enter the meeting. Follow your breath in and out of your body - gradually encouraging it to deepen. Forcing the breath too deep too quickly may make you feel panicky, so ease into it. Deeper breaths help to stimulate the vagus nerve and encourage the Relaxation Response to be activated. Focusing on the breath even for brief periods can also help to clear our minds, ground ourselves, release tension and improve focus.
3. Consider establishing boundaries with family and friends around being able to access you via phone calls/texts throughout your work day. Sometimes the issue is being a part of a culture that expects us to always be available due to the ownership of smart devices. However, it’s OK to reset those expectations around how quickly you respond to non-urgent messages. Some of us may choose to have candid conversations to reset the expectations or we may simply gradually lengthen the amount of time we take to respond to messages.
4. Explore different ways that your smart devices can serve you instead of you being beholden to them. Perhaps set a reminder every 60, 90 or 120 mins to check in with yourself - have you been sedentary for that whole time? If so, consider walking briskly for a couple of minutes or going up and down a few flights of stairs to help mitigate the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Can’t leave your desk? Just try running in place for that 2 minutes. Notice if this helps to relieve some stress, tension or focus better.
5. Outside of your work space check out a few different guided body scan meditations and see if they can help you become more connected to your body. Start to identify what tend to be your hot spots or areas of primary stress tension in your body. Then multiple times during your busy day, guide your focus to your top 1 or 2 hot spots, notice how they feel and imagine inviting your breath into those areas. I suggest even doing this while engaging in various activities - driving, sending emails, in meetings - so that you can gain insight into what you tend to find most stressful. Just remember not to close your eyes if you’re driving!
As you can see, the benefits of employee wellness programmes extend far beyond physical health. By having the right support in place and early intervention, it can promote positive health choices and help drive lifestyle change. You may be unaware that your company has a workplace wellness or employee assistance programme, so ask colleagues or your HR department. You could be surprised what may already be in place.