Do you sometimes feel like you have very little control in your job, but people rely on you to work miracles? Yes? And how often do you find yourself feeling stressed out by that? Having little control but lots of demands is a common source of workplace stress. Whether you are self-employed or work for someone else, there are days when you have and you will continue to experience stress.
In a sense, workplace stress is a pandemic in itself.
How much has workplace stress escalated?
According to the World Health Organisation, stress could be considered the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’ expected to cost American businesses alone over $300 billion a year. The ebb and flow of the global economy means stress is on the rise in Australian workplaces as well, and it’s critical to understand the underlying causes and how to handle them.
For the sake of humanity and business productivity (for those who are more that-way inclined) we need organisations throughout the world to actively support their employees in their effort to reduce and prevent stress and find a healthy balance in their lives.
To make any progress with that approach, we need to understand the root causes of stress. The top five causes of work related stress are:
- Job insecurity
- Work overload
- Organisational change
- Conflict with a manager or colleagues
- Bullying and harassment
Source: ME Bank Household Financial Comfort Report
But while businesses and the corporate world are playing catch up with addressing these issues, there are simple practices YOU can do in 10 minutes or less to calm your mind when you are feeling distressed.
How to calm the distressed mind in 10 minutes or less
The list of methods to handle stress better could be pages long, but the practices suggested here are things you can do when you ARE feeling stressed out. Many may seem obvious at first glance, but ask yourself how many of these methods you actually use in the heat of things. So here goes:
Make time for mindfulness
Many lawyers, fund managers, health workers and professors do it. Even CEOs and leaders from all fields are being encouraged to do it. If you think meditation is for hippies or monks, think again. There are apps like Calm, or organisations like Headspace that offer secular guided meditations for those who aren’t religious or spiritual. Many of these can be done discreetly at your desk during a 10-minute break with headphones. It may feel awkward at first, but the results will make you want to add it to your stress management toolbox.
Whatever the cause or trigger, if you feel yourself tensing up and need to clear your head, a few minutes of deep breathing can restore balance. Inhale for five seconds, hold and exhale for another five seconds through the nose. There’s a reason why yoga classes, so well known for relaxation and stress-relief focus on breathing exercises.
Go for a 10-minute walk
Walking away from the environment that has caused you stress or anxiety can assist dramatically in calming the nerves as can getting a bit of fresh air. Taking a short walk might help you process your thoughts and clear your mind.
Keep up your water intake
How many glasses of water do you drink in a day? How much should you be drinking? Generally 8-10 glasses a day is what’s recommended. Stress can cause dehydration and dehydration can compound stress. Build more water consumption in to your day. If you have trouble remembering, try having 3 glasses by noon, 3 more by the end of your work day and the rest after you arrive home.
Make a list prior to switching on your computer
If you are experiencing stress from feeling overwhelmed by your workload, spend 10 minutes in the morning before switching on your computer, writing a list of priorities for the day. The key is to build in some leeway into your schedule to factor for interruptions and last minute demands on your time. Making this a daily practice and ensuring you are achieving at least one major task each day can help you feel a sense of achievement.
Stress prevention practices
In terms of preventative measures, it’s key to consider the ‘person to environment’ fit within organisations. It really matters more than you think. Things like company culture, the pace at which an organisation works, the attention, care and honest support provided to employees should always be a key consideration when applying for a job, and from an employer’s perspective, when hiring. If it’s not a good fit for your disposition, you might as well dodge the bullet.
Your ability to handle stress doesn’t define your capability
Even in identical situations, two different people can respond very differently to potential sources of stress. One may feel an incredible amount of pressure, while the other might thrive. Now, don’t despair or get down on yourself.
Your ability to handle stressful situations doesn’t define your overall capability, but it may impact your success in a particular organisation or role and ultimately affect your health and wellbeing.
Stress statistics that remind you are not alone
If you think you’re the only one feeling the level of stress that you do, think again.
According to the NIOSH report:
40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
26% of workers said they “often or very often burned out or were stressed by their work
25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives
In addition to this the Australian Psychological Society’s Stress and Well Being Survey indicates that the most affected age bracket is from 18-35.
Job stress is strongly associated with health issues and complaints and financial or family problems.
Tangible steps businesses can take to support a mindful workplace
Businesses need to start considering providing meditation training or access to nutrition-related guidance in their leadership programs and executive coaching. Mindfulness will need to be incorporated into the value systems and taught to people at all levels of the organisation. Perhaps having opportunities or ‘places’ for people to ‘get away’ and relax and refresh need to exist. The health of employees will need to be supported by every executive throughout the business and this requires a top-down approach. The fish rots from the head, and if the top of the hierarchy can’t uphold these values, success is unlikely to permeate throughout the organisation, and this at the end of the day will affect the bottom line of the business.