Earlier in April, as part of Stress Awareness Month, we addressed how employers can protect the mental health of employees during the post lockdown return to work.
Given that 2021’s theme was ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’, we also wanted to provide guidance around how workers themselves can cope with and reduce their stress levels.
This is particularly prevalent in the current climate, as lockdown restrictions ease, working patterns look set to change once again and people will still inevitably have concerns around keeping Covid-19 safe.
In fact, research by insurer AXA revealed how the pandemic is increasing levels of work-related stress among 64% of workers across both the UK and Europe, proving that this is an area of concern for the majority of people.
Bearing this in mind, here are our top tips on how employees can manage stress, build their resilience and, ultimately, boost their wellbeing while tackling their role head on.
Recognise the symptoms of stress
Being able to identify stress symptoms provides the first step towards understanding how to deal with them. Many people would testify that they are not and have no reason to be stressed, while their body is telling them otherwise.
Look out for these signs:
Feeling irritation, anger or denial
Feeling uncertain, nervous or anxious
Feeling tired, overwhelmed or burned out
Feeling sad or depressed
Having trouble sleeping
Having trouble concentrating
Know the common work factors which add to stress during Covid-19
If you can recognise the feelings that are causing stress, you can then work on addressing them and will be in a stronger position to recognise that what you’re feeling is normal and that you can get help if required.
Concern about the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 at work
Addressing family needs during what should be working hours
Managing and juggling different workloads
Lack of access to the equipment and software needed to execute your role effectively
Feelings that you are not contributing enough during your daily responsibilities
Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment
Learning about new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule, alongside navigating the return to office spaces
Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings
Communicating with and raising any issues with your managers and colleagues can be the most beneficial action to take. It might lead to other people coming forward with problems they’re encountering and facilitate the implementation of new wellbeing frameworks and policies.
If you can identify and talk about the factors which cause your stress, you’ll be able to work with your workplace counterparts to identify tangible solutions. These can, in turn, be shared across the entire organisation so that a clear pathway is put into action.
Implement a daily routine
You can maintain a sense of control by sticking to a consistent daily routine, particularly if working from home or remotely looks set to become your ‘new normal’ way of life.
This will help you to establish clear boundaries between the personal and professional elements of your life. When these lines become blurred, it can become hard to control increased levels of stress as you try to juggle everything at once.
Make sure that you keep a regular sleep schedule and take breaks from work to exercise or check in with your colleagues, family and friends and anyone else who might be in your support network.
Try to spend some time outdoors on a daily basis, even if you can only manage a few minutes. The benefits of taking in some vitamin D, whether you are relaxing or doing some exercise, are second to none and include helping to boost your immune and nervous systems.
Practice mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment. Practicing mindfulness may involve new breathing methods, using guided imagery and other practices to relax the body and mind and help to reduce stress. It can also improve your attention levels and decrease job related burnout.
Do activities you enjoy during your down time
When you aren’t on the clock, it’s vital that you try to switch off from thinking about the day-to-day work responsibilities. It might be that you incorporate your love of cooking, walking or listening to music into your normal evening routine. Or you could take up a new hobby, as learning a new skill will be sure to provide a distraction and distance you from thinking about work.
Connect with other people
Talk to people you trust about your concerns around Covid-19, your own personal safety, how you are feeling and how the pandemic is affecting you directly.
A good approach is to harness the technology at your disposal to connect with others. This might be via phone calls, messaging apps, video conferencing tools and social media. The sight of a friendly face when you’re feeling low will brighten your mood and lift your spirits.
Be sure to help others
Supporting other people during this time will help to instil you with a sense of control, belonging and self-esteem. Research safe ways to offer support to others, especially if they are showing signs of stress, depression or anxiety, as listed earlier on.
If you have any concerns about how you’re currently coping with stress while managing your career and other expectations, please contact the MERJE team: firstname.lastname@example.org.