Managing Workplace Stress - Tips and Tricks

Stress. It is a normal part of everyday life, and something that our body is designed to handle. In fact, we have an inbuilt “fight or flight response”, which sees our body adopt various physiological processes in order for us to handle the stressors we may experience.

For our ancestors, this may have involved evading predators or seeking out other survival methods, but for us, the modern day folk, stress can be much more hidden in our daily lives.

Stress can often be beneficial, particularly in the workplace, allowing us to be energised to produce effective solutions and meet deadlines. There are many situations and stressors that can produce negative impacts, however, particularly if we perceive there to be a threat to our well-being or interests, likely leading to experiencing unpleasant emotions such as fear, anger and anxiety.

Stress in the workplace can be caused by a range of different factors and situations, and the impacts of these can really differ for each individual. Some examples can include:

  • Boring or repetitive work, or too little to do

  • Too much to do, with too little time

  • Bullying and harassment by colleagues, clients, stakeholders or management

  • Feeling unable to complete the tasks required, due to a lack of skills or adequate training

  • Confusion over priorities, timeframes and standards

  • Lack of, or miscommunication

  • Negative culture in the workplace

  • Poor professional relationships

When work-related stress is pro-longed or excessive, this can be a real risk factor for increased distress for individuals, including increasing the risk for anxiety and depression, as well as many other health and personal problems. Our physiological “fight and flight” stress response is designed in a way that we should work this off or manage it, as otherwise over time, this can lead to a depletion of our energies, making us more susceptible to illness and can create real psychological reactions.

By adopting stress management techniques into your everyday approach, even if you don’t feel that you are currently stressed or being negatively impacted by stress, this can help you become better equipped to deal with more extreme stressors as they arise.

The key here is to be proactive rather than reactive with our stress management techniques.

Even if you are not currently experiencing significant impacts of stress, this doesn’t mean it won’t happen down the track. It is therefore important to practice and implement effective stress management techniques in your everyday life.

Learn to Identify and Track Your Stressors

For some people, they may already be acutely aware of the stress they face in the workplace, but for others they may not be as aware.

For more information around the signs and symptoms of anxiety and stress, the beyondblue website has some excellent resources.

Tracking and identifying your stressors can be done in a number of ways and it will depend upon your preferred approach. Some options include:

  • Keeping a journal or diary for a week to identify which situations create stress and how you respond to them. This doesn’t need to necessarily be a physical diary, you can start with a note in your phone which you add to throughout the day.

  • Utilising an app. There are several smart phone apps available which help you track your moods and establish your stressors:

Once you have identified your stressors, particularly ones that are work related, you may think “I can’t change any of this stuff”. Whether it be your busy schedule or an individual at work that really stresses you out. And whilst it may be true that you can’t necessarily influence workplace culture or set your own deadlines, there are a number of things that you can do at an individual level to keep your stress under control.

To assist in creating strategies to manage our workplace stress, we have devised a series of "Tips and Tricks" to help us better understand what may stress us out, and how we can learn to control this. An overview of the series is provided below, with links to each page:

1. Finding an Outlet for Your Energy

2. Improving the Potential Mitigating Factors

3. Establishing a Support Network

4. Adopting a Problem Solving Approach

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