National Stress Awareness Day: Tips and tricks to tackle workplace stress

Research has cited the workplace as one of the most stressful environments for Brits

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 04 November 2020 09:24
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Stress is something that affects us all on a day-to-day basis and it can take many forms, ranging from missing a flight to discovering your favourite supermarket sandwich has sold out.

In severe cases, it can provoke a number of psychological and physical symptoms, such as headaches, chest pain, nausea and anxiety.

With research claiming that 85 per cent of UK adults experience stress regularly, it's crucial to find easy solutions to manage it, however mundane the cause may be.

National Stress Awareness Day is part of an annual campaign to promote stress prevention, and with pressures to perform professionally making Brits feel more overwhelmed than ever before, it’s no surprise that the most common place to experience stress as at work.

But it’s not just the never-ending emails and relentless meeting schedules that are keeping us up at night.

According to clinical psychologist Dr Megan Jones Bell, who is also chief science officer at the mindfulness app Headspace, one of the most common causes of work-related stress is having a challenging relationship with your boss.

“While we all want to feel that there is space in our work to be creative and to have our voices listened to, unfortunately, that’s not always the case,” she tells The Independent.

Not seeing eye-to-eye with your boss is fairly common, research has found.

A recent study conducted by the US polling company Gallup found that one in two employees have actually left a job “to get away from their manager at some point in their career.”

Meanwhile, research by the American Psychological Association claims that 75 per cent of Americans believe their boss to be “the most stressful part of their workday”.

Bell, who is also an assistant professor in behavioural sciences at Stanford University, California, explains how some bosses can be particularly demanding, which may result in a fractured work-life balance that can exacerbate pre-existing stress - particularly as many people have started working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There really is no hard distinction between work and home life anymore,” she continues.

“This notion of ‘balance’ between two competing areas of our lives sets us up to believe there should be boundaries and then leaves us feeling stressed and anxious when there aren't.”

In a bid to alleviate work-related, stress, Bell recommends learning mindful skills such as mediation, which you can use in the office to help calm yourself down.

Mindfulness involves being as conscious as possible of your surroundings and has been said to boost productivity, curb anxiety and even improve romantic relationships.

When conducted properly via things like meditation, mindfulness can elicit feelings of calmness that may enable you to drown out some of the stressful work-related noise in your head.

Meditation is something you can do at your desk, and according to Deepak Chopra, it only takes one minute. As explained in this video, here are some of the famous author's quick mediation tips, which can be easily remembered under the STOP acronym:

1. Stop whatever it is that you're doing.

2. Take some deep breaths and focus on the sensations of your breathing.

3. Observe what is going on and ask yourself four questions: "Who am I? What do I want? What is my dharma or purpose? What am I grateful for?"

4. Proceed with your day and continue to think about your answers to those questions.

If meditating on your own sounds daunting, Bell advises seeking out group meditation where possible.

“Interestingly, when other people see you meditating, it is actually a good thing because it demystifies the practice and helps other people learn new habits through modelling,” she says.

“Similar to the concept of workout buddies, building a community of like-minded people and co-workers who share your passion is important for long term behaviour change.

“Employees can champion these efforts by gathering an informal group together and encouraging others to join along.”

Of course, it’s not just the employees working under difficult bosses who experience workplace stress, things can get pretty intense for the bosses themselves.

“For managers, one of the key tenets of mindfulness is being aware of how people on your team experience their work," says Bell.

“Managers who are aware of how they come across and who lead mindfully will build a happier, more productive workforce and retain talent. When we are less aggressive and more compassionate with our teammates and direct reports, we build trust and a collaborative team.”

Bell estimates that we spend 90,000 hours in our lifetime at work, making stress management all the more critical.

If we can learn to reframe challenges at work into opportunities to build resilience rather than create stress, we can have a really positive impact on our health and happiness.”

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