It’s almost inevitable that you’ll encounter some stress at work, but sometimes the pressures of work mount to worryingly high levels. What’s more, it’s not always easy to recognise when you’ve crossed the line and it’s all become too much.
Instead of finding ways to really manage our stress, we take on more and more work and quickly burn out. As you’re probably aware, stress taxes the body as well as the mind – high blood pressure, fatigue and reduced concentration are all common symptoms. In a fast-paced job it’s essential not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed, but how can you keep on top of your work without wearing yourself out?
Spruce up the place
Everyone likes to work somewhere that looks good, but are you aware of how the décor of your office can affect your productivity, health and peace of mind? Though you obviously don’t come to work in order to relax, a workplace that strikes a balance between tranquil and functional is an enormous help for those who are stressed out.
The degree to which you can make your space more peaceful may depend on where you work, and you may be particularly hamstrung if you don’t work in an office. But plants, artwork and light are all factors that increase productivity (with plants it’s about more than just looking nice: leafy ones draw impurities from the air too). An organized desk helps too.
You could go further and implement feng shui techniques; this is a topic far too extensive to cover here, but we’ll just say that no matter your views on more new age or mystical techniques, many principles found in this ancient Chinese wisdom are endorsed by the skeptical scientific community.
If your office is a truly depressing hole in the ground, you can always ask your manager or human resources professional about wider changes that can be implemented for more harmonious working.
Slow down time
If you could actually make time go by more slowly, that would be an ideal way to work through that mountain of tasks. Unfortunately you can’t really do that, but you can focus your thoughts and get more done in the time available with breathing techniques.
Yes, breathing. Although you draw air in and out of your body constantly, breathing properly is not as simple as you might think. To reduce stress, slow it right down, and inhale and exhale in a regular rhythm. Start by breathing in deeply for four seconds, and then out for four seconds. Repeat this for a few minutes as you go about your work. You should find you are able to retain information better, and make more sense of your thoughts.
Divide the day
When you’ve got too much on your plate, it can feel like you’re being pulled in six directions at once. Sometimes we try to deal with several tasks or areas of focus simultaneously, and end up not properly addressing any of them.
It sounds obvious, and most of us are aware of the benefits of managing your time so as to devote your full attention to only one thing at once. When the work stacks up however, we begin to think that the process of dividing up the day is an unnecessary time sink. It’s not – that time is claimed back many times over once you work out what you’re doing and when. Solitary, regular tasks like reading email are best done in the morning, as are the most pressing tasks of the day. More social or creative tasks are best addressed in the afternoon when thoughts flow more freely. By the way, you don’t have to wait until crisis point before devising a regular timetable.
If your work really is becoming the bane of your life however, it may have become time to discuss reassigning some of your tasks, taking a break or even leaving your work entirely. Your job is not the centre of your life – your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing must always come first.
Paul Breton is a Marketing Executive with online recruitment specialists Blue Octopus Recruitment in Otley, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. He blogs on working life, human resources and the world of recruitment.