In our November magazine, we talked about Stress Awareness Week and ways to help you a) notice the signs of stress, and b) combat stress, particularly in the workplace.
As we move into February, with people feeling the pinch after Christmas, the cost-of-living crisis firmly sitting at everyone’s front door and energy subsidies set to reduce in the near future, it is more important than ever that we are aware of how we are coping with the stresses in our lives.
In the last article we used the analogy of the ‘stress bucket’ and the importance of emptying the bucket to keep stress levels manageable. In this article, we will look a bit closer at some coping mechanisms you can use as a team, and as individuals.
As a team
Good communication between team members and encouraging people to talk more and share problems can help manage workplace stress. Add an agenda item to team meetings to discuss stress awareness or staff mental health. You could have this as a permanent item to let people know that this is something that you take seriously and are willing to support as management. You could try regular check-ins with members of staff at various points in the week or by doing a short survey at regular intervals. If people feel that their concerns will be taken seriously, they are more likely to open up, and discuss when things are getting tough.
- Consider training some of your staff in Mental Health First Aid. There are a number of reasonably priced courses online which people could undertake to help them spot the signs of mental illness or unhealthy levels of stress
- Set up a buddy/mentor system and give people time each week where they can check-in with each other
- Give staff more autonomy in their jobs – one of the greatest causes of workplace stress is when people don’t feel they have any control over situations or circumstances
- Set up some group activities to bond as a team or wind down at the end of the week. These could include some ideas for stress reduction, or just be for fun:
- Yoga or meditation
- A craft workshop
- Early finish one day a week
- Group exercise class – running, tennis, badminton
- Karaoke session
- Cookery club
- Games night
Sharing problems and working as a team can be great ways to let go of stress, and the old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved” works well in this instance. However, there may be times, when you want to take a more individual approach to stress management and to identify things that will reduce your individual stress levels.
Everyone is different and will have their own favourites but the main thing is to find things that help you relax and reduce stress. For some, this could be making more time to do gardening, whilst others might find solace in reading or playing golf. There are some generic things that have been shown to help reduce stress, but the trick here is to find your own personal version of things. For example, exercise is well known for having stress-reducing benefits, but if you start paying for a gym membership and never go, or buy an exercise bike that you never use, the chances are that these things will cause you more stress. So, before investing your time and money, work out what it is you really love doing, and follow your heart. If you hate gyms but love dancing, look for a local salsa or jive class; or if you always wanted to learn to bake, knit or do life drawing, check out local adult education classes.
The key here is taking time out for YOU, which can be difficult if you work full-time and have other family commitments too. Sometimes you have to think about looking after yourself and keeping yourself healthy, before agreeing to do one more thing for somebody else!
Work out what helps you relax – here are some ideas to personalise:
- Music – listen to it, go to a concert, learn to play an instrument
- Nature – gardening, walking and hiking, volunteering at an animal shelter
- Arts and crafts - painting, drawing, sculpture, dance
- Exercise – dancing, wild swimming, aquarobics, gardening, bowling, Tai Chi, climbing, horse-riding, ice-skating, couch to 5K
- Create “Me time” – set up a rota for chores at home so the burden is shared, go to bed half and hour earlier and read, invest in a cleaner, have a regular ‘date night’, switch off your mobile at a certain time and don’t look at it until the morning, give yourself a pamper night, have an occasional ‘duvet day’
- Join a local friendship or other specialist interest group – e.g. volunteering, arts, history, First Aid, theatre group, bridge club
- Friends – make time to see your friends more often (you’ll probably find that they need to de-stress too)
Work out what makes you stressed and put safeguards in place
Identifying things that cause you stress can help because once you know what the problem truly is, you are well on your way to finding solutions. So be honest with yourself and go through the list below, giving yourself a stress score out of 10 for each category.
- Time management
- Logistics – things like transport and childcare which may be especially problematic at the moment with the current strikes
- Health worries
- Family worries
Relationships (intimate, family, friends, work)
You will not be able to tackle everything at once – indeed that is likely to lead to more stress. But by being honest with yourself, you can then start with the most important or most stressful ones and sort out these first. And if you need help – ask! It is better to go and see your GP at the first signs of stress, than to be taken to hospital in an ambulance later!
Other techniques you could use
- STOP – an acronym for when things get overwhelming which stands for: S – stop; T – take a breathe, O – observe your body, mind and emotions for a few minutes, then P – proceed with what you were doing, but with the knowledge you have from your STOP technique
- Breathing – slow breath in through the nose and slow breath out though the mouth
- Yoga – breathing and movement
- Mindfulness – taking the time to observe yourself in the moment (a bit like STOP)
- Tapping – sometimes called Emotional Freedom Technique that has been proven to help anxiety and PTSD sufferers
- Guided meditations – search on YouTube