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5 tips for managing stress at work

Stress accounts for approximately a third of work-related ill health and is something we all experience to some degree.

We spoke to mental health experts to give some guidance on how to manage stress and maintain a happy and healthy working life.  

1. Listen to your body

Stress doesn’t always manifest in ‘feeling stressed’. It can appear as disrupted sleep, high levels of tension, or poor concentration. Paying attention to these cues can give you a better indication of your mental health. Be conscious that your body communicates with you on multiple levels.

2. Work with your body

All sorts of things can trigger a stress response, but this response goes beyond the “stress system”. It has widespread interactions with and can impact on your energy and sleep, dietary preferences, and the immune system. It may be impossible to change a stressful situation, but you may find ways to support your body with things like better dietary choices, and looking after your sleep hygiene.

3. Be aware of how you think

Our reactions to difficult situations can play a big part in how they affect us and create stress. Increases in stress have been found to alter the way we interpret the world around us and our thoughts. For example, it can change the strategies we use to make decisions towards more habit-based decisions, rather than allowing shifts towards flexible decision-making that can better contribute to achieving your goals.

4. Think about 'chronicity' (repeated and constant stress)

Even if your work life contains stress, try to find ways to punctuate it with non-stressful activities. These can be short or long term: ranging from things like switching off emails for 30 minutes while working on something important or taking five minutes outside, to regularly isolating a day or a week without high-pressure meetings or deadlines or strategically booking holidays at regular intervals, or after stressful phases.

5. Take control and take a step back

We often hold unreasonably high expectations of ourselves at work, or don’t take time to look after ourselves outside of it. Identify where you can exert an influence over how you spend your time and where you direct your focus. Recognise that you have limitations in terms of your skills, focus and time, and make choices based on what is most important and what may be realistically possible for you.

Last updated: 16 May 2017

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