The society we live in tends to glamorize excessive stress as the way to personal success; in effect, this has led to an epidemic of mental health issues around the world. A stressful job can have a broad spectrum of repercussions on our physical and emotional health, along with having a detrimental effect on our relationships with our friends and family.
While some stress can be positive and motivate you to push your limits and achieve great things, constantly working under pressure and taking on more tasks than you can manage will eventually take a toll on your health. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the most common causes of workplace stress and some of the ways people can address them. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
1. Excessively high workloads
People often have to deal with arduous tasks in very short amounts of time, which can often make them feel very pressured and even overpowered. While there’s no way to make this load of work disappear, we need to instead focus on changing our attitude towards it. The key to overcoming situations like these is concentrating on the goals you need to achieve, rather than the means. Don’t focus on the things you have to do, rather approach the issue creatively and find the shortest path between you and the end result of this workload.
Also, it helps to think of a heavy workload as a challenge, rather than a reason for stress. This brain hack does the difference between the positive and negative stress we mentioned in the beginning. If you look at your task as a challenge, something to get excited about, you will have a proactive mindset through the process and you’ll perceive the completion of the task as a small victory, something to feel proud about. However, if you think of the task as a burden, it will be harder for you to focus, you’ll work slowly, and when you complete the task, you’ll only feel relief.
Being overwhelmed by high worlds will sometimes push us to multitask. This is another glamorized practice that will simply defeat its original purpose of getting more work done. Multitasking has a strenuous effect on the nervous system while not making us work better or faster.
Even if you might feel like you’re wasting time, it’s best to work on one task at a time. It will allow you to do a better job while not subjecting your nervous system to unnecessary stress. When multitasking, our brain is actually under the illusion of working faster, but, according to scientists at Stanford University, you work slower and less effectively. So, by the end of a hard day where you worked on three things at a time, you’ll feel very tired, but you’ll discover that you didn’t cross anything off the list. Plus, more tasks means more mistakes, so in the end, you’ll waste even more time fixing those.
If you’re used to multitasking and find it hard to change your habits, productivity apps can help you boost your focus and take one thing at a time.
3. Lack of sleep and poor diet
Lack of sleep and an inadequate diet will diminish your productivity, which will often lead to additional stress. More importantly, the lack of sleep will make you more susceptible to stress. This, in effect, will make you sleep worse. It goes full circle. The same can be said about diet. Poor diet leads to decreased productivity, which leads to a poor diet.
Start by improving the quality of your sleep by making the necessary improvements to your workday. Sleeping less will not make you more productive because you won’t be able to focus if you’re tired. A good night sleep will allow you to perform your tasks better, which in effect will relieve you of the unnecessary stress related to your decreased performance at work. Increase your intake of leafy greens — they’re rich in lutein that has shown great results in improving cognitive function and cut down on the junk food and fatty meat.
You might also want to watch your caffeine intake. While a couple of cups of coffee or green tea will help you stay focused and work faster, drinking too much of these will make you hyperactive. Energy drinks are also counterproductive. Apart from the fact that they have way too much sugar, their effect is short-lived: you only get a short and sudden spike in energy, followed by a crash where you won’t be able to get anything done.
Although it might not look that glamorous, orange juice can be a great alternative to energy drinks. Unlike caffeine, which gives you an energy spike and then the effects fades away, the vitamins in orange juice release energy gradually over a longer period. Meal planning can also help you stay more productive. Starving yourself until you finish that task will make you eat more and faster than usual, which will then make you feel sleepy and bloated and the dreaded “food coma” will keep you from getting anything done for hours. For the sake of your health and your productivity, don’t delay your meals for more than half an hour.
Above all these three tips, remember to maintain a good work-life balance. Stress can be good and you can find ways to overcome it, but it’s important to listen to your body and know when it all becomes too much. Be kind to yourself, don’t neglect the importance of breaks, and don’t be afraid to say no if you feel that stress is beginning to affect your physical and mental health.
For a very long time, modern society has perceived the need for “me time” or mental health leave as signs of weakness, but things are slowly beginning to change. Many countries are trying out 4-day work weeks with positive outcomes both on productivity and employee morale and there is a growing awareness on the dangers of excessive workplace stress. Money may be important, but that overtime bonus should never weigh more than your health and wellbeing.