More than 70% of Australians reported their current stress levels had an impact on their physical health according to a 2014 survey on Stress and Wellbeing by the Australian Psychological Society. The cause of stress is varied; from work, to health, to money woes, everyone is affected from time to time. No matter what the trigger, stress has the ability to decrease productivity levels within a workplace.
Organisations can support their workforce by providing simple strategies to reduce stress. Open a dialogue with employees so that they feel comfortable approaching you about any external stress they are experiencing and what impact this is having on their work. It might be that you need to introduce some flexible work arrangement, which allows them to better manage their workload and external commitments.
Also be mindful of how their work environment could be creating unnecessary stress. For example: are employees continuously working through their lunch hour or late into the evening to meet challenging deadlines? Is there conflict between employees that could be directly impacting them and others? Do employees have the necessary resources to perform their roles effectively?
While you can’t control the stress your employees experience outside of working hours, you can positively impact their experience at work by reducing or eliminating workplace stressors. And everyone can learn how to handle their stress in a healthy way.
7 techniques for reducing stress when it occurs
Identify warning signs
These warning signs can be different for each person, but might include jaw clenching, teeth grinding, headaches, irritability and being short tempered. If you are experiencing any of these, it could be your body’s way of telling you that YOU ARE STRESSED!
Each of us has triggers that raise our stress levels and make it difficult for us to cope. If you know what your triggers are, you can anticipate them and practise calming yourself down beforehand. You might even find a way of removing the trigger all together. Common triggers include things like late nights, deadlines, people, hunger or over-tired children.
Having predictable routines in your day can calm and reassure you, and help you better manage your stress. Routines can include regular exercise, such as spin class 3 mornings a week, a lunchtime stroll, regular meal times and bedtimes, performing certain activities at times of the day when you are at your most productive.
Spend time with people who care
Spending time with people you care about and who care about you, is an important way of managing ongoing stress. Unfortunately, some people are emotionally draining and bring unwanted stress into your lives, so identify who those people are and avoid them from time to time, if at all possible. Spend time with those people you find uplifting, rather than people who place unreasonable demands on you. Remember that you can share your thoughts and feelings with good friends in a safe and supportive way. If you tend to ‘bottle-up’ your feelings, this can increase your stress levels.
Look after your health
Make sure you eat healthy foods daily and get regular exercise. You should also allocate time to nurturing activities that enhance your mood, such as listening to music, walking or dancing. It’s often a good idea to not rely on things like alcohol, tobacco and drugs as a way of coping with stress. Although some of these might momentarily relieve feelings of stress, they will undoubtedly leave you feeling more stressed, anxious and depleted when their effects wear off.
Notice your ‘self-talk’
When we are stressed we sometimes have the unhelpful habit of saying things to ourselves (e.g. “I can’t cope,” “I’m too busy,” “It’s not fair”). While these statements might be true, they don’t help us and can often make us feel worse. That’s why it is important to say soothing things that help reduce our stress levels (e.g. “I’m doing ok considering what I’ve got on,” “one thing at a time,” “breathe easy”). Try saying statements to yourself, such as “this is not the end of the world” or “in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t matter so much.”
Make time to practise relaxation, because even 15 minutes of relaxation a day has been proven to greatly reduce stress. Relaxation helps your body and nervous system settle and readjust. Consider trying formal techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or yoga. You might prefer a relaxing activity, such as gardening or listening to music. You could also take time out each day do something that gives you a sense of pleasure, like reading a book.
Further to providing strategies to help your employees cope, make use of any Employment Assistance or Work-life balance programs your company provides, utilise free tools like HeadSpace and ReachOut and post these options on your intranet or in common areas around your office to make employees aware.
This article was supplied by our partners at Seventeenhundred who provide work-life integration and diversity solutions to support organisations and the journey of the individuals within – enabling them to balance their work commitments and external responsibilities.