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Stress coping mechanisms

  • 3 Min Read

It’s often all too easy to feel stressed at work, whether it’s a pressing deadline, mounting workload or unexpected change in the team or business. Stress is a natural response to new, challenging situations that feel beyond our control. When stressed, our body thinks it’s under attack, so switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode. The hormones produced when we trigger a fight/flight response can either spur us into action or unnerve us, adversely affecting our mood and productivity.

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If you’re experiencing stress in the workplace, there are steps you can take to help address it:

  1. Basic wellness checks– should you be doing more exercise, improving your diet, or getting more sleep? Fairly simple changes in these three areas can improve your outlook and ability to cope with stressful situations at work
  2. Challenge your thinking – if you find yourself taking a negative perspective on work issues could there be a more balanced or alternative way of looking at things? Write down what’s troubling you and challenge it. Take some time to focus on the positive– what are your strengths and what have you achieved?
  3. Make lists and plan workloads – by ticking off  jobs on your list you’ll start to recognise your accomplishments and feel more in control
  4. Find time to relax – reset your mind, listen to your favourite music or take a walk for air. Whether it’s at home or on your lunch break, make time for you. Switching off will also improve your sleep health, allowing you to tackle tasks with a fresh head
  5. Be fair on yourself – think about what you have the power to change your current circumstances and prioritise these things, rather than worrying about areas you can’t control. Keep things in perspective. Ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ It’s probably not as bad as you imagine
  6. Try not to avoid – whether it’s faking a sick day or putting something off, ignoring the source of your stress won’t make it disappear and may only add to your to-do list
  7. Identify the real problem are you afraid of failing? Sometimes we’re our own worst critics.  Think about what you’d say to a friend or a colleague in the same situation. Would you be as hard on them as you are on yourself?
  8. Protect your work-life balance – don’t abandon social plans for the sake of working late. Overtime can lead to diminishing returns on productivity. Making time to catch up with friends and family will boost your mood and take your mind off work pressures
  9. Avoid unhealthy habits – excessive food or drink consumption may offer temporary relief but it won’t help in the long run. Explore good habits that can boost your mood and energy levels. Exercise releases a chemical in the brain called dopamine which gives you a healthy high
  10. Don’t bottle it up – it’s helpful to share your concerns, so speak to your manager or a supportive colleague.  A problem shared is a problem halved

About the author

Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP healthcare

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