According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2017/18, 595,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. That’s 40% of all work-related illness.
Psychological problems, including stress, anxiety and depression are behind one in five visits to a GP.
Stress symptoms include a pounding heart or palpitations, a dry mouth, headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, aches and pains and loss of appetite for food and sex. Some pressure at work can be motivating, but when it becomes excessive, it can eventually lead to work-related stress.
Most people who suffer with high levels of stress have problems saying no to others and yes to themselves. A lot of people I work with think they have no choice but to overwork and find themselves overcommitting, people-pleasing and sabotaging their own passions and hobbies.
If you are one of these people, then the good news is there are some practical steps you can start to take today:
- Practice saying no more often. This can be tricky, so start small and build up to the one person you find it hardest to say no to. Our pseudo self-esteem can often convince us that we will become better liked or we will be rewarded for this behaviour. Our true self esteem must come from inside.
- Breathe. Your brain needs oxygen to function properly. You don’t need to sit cross legged and start chanting, instead breathe in for the count of 5 and out for the count of 8. Do this 5 times, and then notice how you feel.
- Look up from your mobile phone and laptops more often. Take time to appreciate the world around you. Take delight in the air on your skin, the warmth of the sunshine, the fact you are alive and able to see. It’s the small things that matter.
- Take yourself out on a date. That’s right a date – alone. Treat yourself like you would a good friend. Time alone allows the creativity in all us to flow again. Do something just for the fun of it. Try it and see what happens – you might actually start liking yourself again.
- See if you can create time to slow down whilst you are eating. Notice the smell and textures before racing to devour your food and move onto the next job. Consider who grew some of the food and how it has been transported to your plate. Not forgetting that nature will have played a huge part in its existence. Practice some gratitude for the abundance of the food choices many of us have.
- Create more time to be still and allow there to be spaces in your diary. You could start by giving yourself an hour a week. Go on, block it out, and see what you might like to do when it arrives. No planning, just see what happens. And if you find this as hard as I did, mark it down as CPD ☺
- Be kind to yourself. It all starts with you. By offering yourself kindness, you will be surprised to see how this can spread to random acts of kindness to others.
- Communicate your limits. You are not a superhero and having your ego gently rubbed by others pouring over ‘how do you manage it all?’ is not a great place to start. Be clear with your boundaries and be honest with yourself about what you will and won’t do.
Becoming more mindful by slowing down and noticing the present moment can have huge effects in your work and home life. Negative aspects of our work can easily transfer to the rest of our lives and people closest to us and vice versa. So next time you notice you are feeling rushed and anxious, take a breath, and check-in, you might just be about to repeat a pattern that is causing you unnecessary stress.