Ask the average person what’s behind their stress and they’re likely to cite work as a cause. While many things in life can contribute to stress and anxiety, there’s no doubt work can tip the balance for many of us. If you’re really overloaded or struggling seriously with stress or anxiety, do talk to someone – we have lots of tips on how to speak to your boss about your mental health here. Meanwhile, try these simple ways to manage anxiety and stress, whatever your workplace.
When you work in an office
The challenges: Let’s face it - sitting down indoors all day, staring at a screen, is not the way we’re designed to live. Inactivity’s particularly bad news, and if you have demands on your time that keep you tied to your desk all day, with few breaks, it’s not surprising your stress levels rise. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s stress, too – constant demands from colleagues and your boss can make it difficult to manage your time.
Try these tips:
- Take regular small breaks. Every hour, get up and walk around, perhaps to get yourself a glass of water.
- Always take a lunch hour, if you can. Ideally, use it to do some exercise, even if that’s just a stroll around the block.
- Talk to colleagues rather than emailing. It encourages you to move away from your desk, and you’ll often achieve more by actually speaking to someone.
- Have healthy snacks to hand. It’s all too easy to load up on caffeine and sugar, which can make feelings of stress worse. Keeping fruit and nuts on your desk can help you avoid this, and think about swapping some of your mugs of tea and coffee for herbal options.
- Avoid the pub habit. Socialising with colleagues can be important but try not to get into a regular routine of drinking after work. It can be tempting if you’re very stressed, but excessive alcohol is guaranteed to ramp up anxiety. Suggest forming an office sports team instead, or go dancing or bowling.
When you work in retail
The challenges: You may be on your feet a lot of the day, and that can put stress on your body. And you might be under a lot of pressure to sell, which can be difficult when things are quiet. Then there’s the issue of the stroppy customer – having to manage complaints, especially if they’re unreasonable, can be hard work.
Try these tips:
- Look after your energy levels. Get plenty of sleep and have a good, balanced breakfast, such as porridge topped with nuts and fruit, to set you up for the day. Think about lunch, too. Lots of shops are close to junk food outlets, making it easy to grab unhealthy snacks, which can be tempting when you’re in a rush, but try to plan ahead with a healthy, sustaining lunch.
- Complaint-proof yourself. Make sure your store has a solid policy in place for dealing with complaints – talk to your manager if you don’t feel there is one. Even if there’s a solid process, though, it’s still always hard being on the receiving end of complaints and criticism. Don’t take it personally. Ideally, see if you can have a brief break as soon as possible after a very tricky customer, and share it with a colleague or friend who will understand.
- Fit in exercise. Yoga may be really helpful for stretching out muscles and easing strain on your back and legs, but whatever you enjoy will be helpful. You may work irregular hours, so it’s not always easy to plan ahead for classes. In that case, find something you can fit in when you can, like running part of the way home.
When you work shifts
The challenges: Sleep disruption is the big one – missing out is a major contributor to stress and even if you’re an old hand at shift work, the irregular hours mean you may rarely get quality sleep. Eating healthily – a cornerstone of mental health - can be another big challenge. Plus the irregular hours can mean you don’t get to spend quality time with family friends, which can be important for easing stress and anxiety and lower your quality of life.
Try these tips:
- Ensure your sleep is as restful as possible. Take time to relax before you hit the sack – whatever time of day or night it is, having a wind-down routine will help you fall asleep more easily. Try having a relaxing bath and listening to a guided meditation.
- Plan ahead with food. If possible, do some batch cooking and freezing of healthy dishes in advance so you don’t end up reaching for junk food when you get home. And keep healthy, energy-boosting snacks with you – such as dried fruit and nuts – so you don’t end up grabbing cakes and biscuits.
- Diarise enjoyable activities. Book in time for socialising, exercising and hobbies during your time off. It can be helpful to diarise this to ensure you stick to your plans.
When you’re a manager
The challenges: Although being a manager is likely to give you more control, which can help protect against stress, this may be outweighed by the greater responsibilities. Not only do you have your own goals to achieve, you also have to look after staff.
Try these tips:
- Focus on team wellbeing. Look at ways you can improve mental health in your team – this will help everyone, including you. Even simple things, such as a daily wellbeing check-in, can be helpful. You could also look into arranging lunchtime yoga or meditation sessions.
- Don’t take too much responsibility. Focus on ‘first things first’ and remember that just because you’re a manager, that doesn’t mean you have to deal with everything on your own. If you’re finding things too much, speak to your own boss.
- Make time for fun. Even if you love your work, it’s vital to have mental space away from it. Identify things you really enjoy and find absorbing, from cycling to games nights, and ensure you spend time every week doing them.