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How to Deal with Stress in the Workplace

person stressed at work

Stress and poor health management are one of the leading causes of unhappiness today. Sadly, we are still not talking about the impact it has on our lives. We continue to treat mental and physical health separately. The reality, however, is that they cannot be separate – they are two sides of the same coin. There is no physical health without mental health and stress can lead to numerous problems. From physical problems, like heart disease, digestive issues, insomnia, immune system challenges, etc. to more serious mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

National Stress Awareness Month is held every year in April to raise awareness of the reasons behind stress and dealing with it in the workplace. As a design engineer, manufacturing engineer, production manager, etc you are likely to experience some high levels of stress at work due to project deadlines, manufacturing issues, and month-end workload, but there are ways to reduce the impact this has on your productivity, happiness, and mental well-being. Currently, the Stress Management Society is running a 30 Day Challenge for April, and is encouraging others to do something each day to benefit their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. As it takes 30 days for an action to turn into a habit, the campaign hopes to maximise the chances of you making a positive behavioural change. While the challenge is 30-day-long, some of the actions mentioned below can make a long-lasting and positive impact if adapted to your everyday life.

Key Ways to Reduce Stress 

  • Find out What’s Causing Stress - It’s important to identify what’s causing you to feel stressed, as this makes it a lot easier to tackle the problem. It could be because of looming deadlines, in which case you could create a ‘to-do’ list and put a plan of action into place. If you are struggling to keep on top of tasks, take a look at how you are managing your time and find ways to improve. If the problem stems from excess workload, try to prioritise the most important tasks and delegate what you can. It’s never too late to ask for help.
  • Embrace Exercise - Exercise is an effective way of tackling stress, as it helps you to switch off and focus on something else. If you are beginning to feel stressed at work, take a walk on your lunch break or head to the gym. You could make it a habit to workout after office hours, or use the stairs instead of the lift. All of these can have a positive impact on your stress levels and allow you to get into better shape.
  • Prioritise Your Sleep - It’s hard to perform to the best of your abilities if you’re tired, which is why prioritising sleep is so important. A good night’s sleep can reduce stress, and it can also be beneficial to your health. One way to achieve this is to come up with an effective evening routine, one that helps you to unwind and relax after a long day at work. Getting your 8 hours every night can also give you the clarity of mind and motivation to bring your best to the office every morning.
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Saying No - Feeling overwhelmed by your workload or the pressure to deliver on time can be a big cause of stress, so don’t be afraid of saying no. If you already have too many deadlines, explain this to your manager, or colleagues or approach your Employee Assistance Provider (if your employer offers this as a benefit) and see if additional help is available or other solutions can be found. If you can’t meet a certain deadline and you need more time, say no and offer to find another solution. It is advisable to only take on work you can give your 100% to, instead of taking on more tasks and not being able to do your best.
  • Set Technology Boundaries - A lot of employees make the mistake of assuming that replying to emails late into the evening shows that they are dedicated to the job, but this could have a negative effect on your stress levels. It’s important to set boundaries, such as not replying to emails after work, or not answering telephone calls before your working hours begin. It is essential to maintain a healthy work-life balance. In France, a new law (in 2017) was introduced establishing workers’ “right to disconnect”. The law requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. While the intent of the law was laudable, rules like this confuse effect with cause, and as a result, probably do not slow the tide of e-communication. But the principle of setting boundaries is often a good idea.

Stress is one of the most common causes of long-term work absence in the UK. Supporting employees who are feeling stressed can help you to understand what is making them feel this way. Practical steps can then be taken to address this and help employees feel more positive and productive at work. Whether a small business or a large corporation, the law requires all employers to prevent work-related stress to support good mental health in the workplace.

Though some stress is often inevitable when you are working as a design engineer, manufacturing professional, project manager etc, the techniques above can help you manage it somewhat. With National Stress Awareness Month and the 30 Day Challenge for April, the focus is on making small changes that, after 30 days, are likely to have a significant positive impact. 

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