April is Stress Awareness Month, and so, we asked one of our staff to share their take on managing stress in the workplace. Here’s what they said.
Staff at Connection Support are all working in a busy environment, supporting clients who present with complex issues and need us to come up with solutions. There are lots of competing demands on our time. Not to mention what might also be happening at home with issues around finances, family and keeping on top of the housework. We are all juggling this on a day-to-day basis and most of the time it is fine and we can stay on top of it. We’re all pretty amazing! However, sometimes there can be something that pushes us over the edge and it is no wonder that we feel frazzled and we need to take a step back!
I am writing this at my desk with e-mails that I haven’t yet read stacking up, a long to-do list in front of me, missed calls on my phone, and a mental checklist of other things to be remembered today – including that present that I have to buy for my friend and booking that dentist appointment. However, I promised I would write something about stress management so I am trying to squeeze this in before a meeting with my manager.
Hardly surprisingly I am feeling frustrated, tired and can feel the pressure building up inside me. What can I do to cope with all of this?
I do not have all the answers but there are a few techniques that I have learnt over the years to share with you. I am sure that you each have your own coping mechanisms as well. It is important to find what works best for you.
I have already taken several deep breaths and I find that this simple first step towards finding zen works so well, but it is so easy to forget. To just stop and pause and remember the basics. Deep breath in and a longer breath out, repeat. Already I feel calmer. That’s helping. But we need more in our toolbox than just breathing, and just as important is preventing stress in the first place and finding ways to become more resilient.
Moving more during the day
For me being active is an important way to relieve (and prevent) stress. I am fortunate to be able to walk to work and I switch off by listening to podcasts on my journey so I can feel I am learning something as I walk. I try to ensure I have a break from my desk in Barns Road by going for a walk at lunchtime as often as I can and try to prioritise this time out of the work environment. I definitely notice it when I don’t go as I feel sluggish and irritable in the afternoon if I have not escaped for a while and had some time to myself. I always value that break to stretch my legs and get some fresh air so that I can better cope with the afternoon. I have a 30 minute circuit from Barns Road if anyone is interested in joining me one time – not the most scenic but it does take in a graveyard behind the office which is always busy with birds, squirrels and flowers so I can get a small nature fix. I am also open to ideas if anyone has a better route. Maybe there are others in various Connection Support offices who also do similar and can show others where they go?
I enjoy being active in the evenings and weekends too. I am keen on rowing which ticks all the boxes – it is sociable as you have to do it with others, it is in nature on the river and so you can benefit from being outdoors, and it is keeping the body moving. We all need to find the activity that fits with what we enjoy. I know that rowing is not for everyone but it suits my lifestyle and I get a buzz from it. Gardening and hoovering also count, apparently, towards that 30 minutes 5 times a week that is recommended, so you just need to find a way to build it in and enjoy what you are doing so that you continue with it.
We all feel rubbish when we don’t get enough sleep and I have certainly discovered as I get older that it is no fun to try to burn the candle at both ends. You just feel rubbish! It is not always as easy as just turning out the light at a sensible time because so many things affect our sleep, but it is a way of helping reduce our stress if we can get enough sleep every night.
Improving my time management has helped me over recent months and better planning ahead so I recommend this as an area to look at. There are plenty of YouTube videos to help with this too so it is worth taking some time to get some tips that work for you to improve your efficiency at work and at home.
I love the TV and my sofa has an indent in my space where I sit and watch. I just find it a good way to switch off and I am not ashamed to say that I am subscribed to Netflix, Prime and some other streaming services and enjoy this to relax. We all need a bit of downtime and can’t be doing worthwhile activities the whole time! This is even better and more relaxing if my cat decides to sit on my knee – pets are a perfect de-stressing device.
I have always found reading before bed helps my brain switch off and that is part of my routine as well, and I wish I had more time during the day for reading because getting lost in a book is something I love.
It is great to just to make that effort and meet up with others to talk about something else, get a different perspective and spend the evening in a different place than usual. This was particularly important to me after all the lock downs and I realised that I missed being in a different environment and being out with friends. To me this another benefit of rowing as there are lots of people I have met this way and rowers tend to be good at letting their hair down. Maybe we can start to do more with our colleagues on a social basis too now that we see each other less in offices than before the pandemic.
A lot of this is summed up in the Mind resource ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ – a sensible and easy approach to follow.