If you're like most people, you probably experience some stress at work. Managing stress can be challenging, from tight deadlines to juggling multiple projects. But it's not just unpleasant - it's also bad for your health. Chronic stress can lead to a host of health problems, from anxiety to heart disease.
So, in this article, we will share some tips on managing stress at work from a productivity expert's perspective.
1. Master Your Day: Prioritise Like a Pro
One of the most effective ways to manage stress at work is to take control of your workload. Prioritise your to-do list to focus on the most critical tasks. This will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
5 Different Strategies for Prioritising Work Tasks
- Prioritise by Urgency and Importance: Prioritise tasks by dividing them into four quadrants based on their urgency and importance. Tasks that are urgent and important are first. Urgent but unimportant can be delegated to someone else, while tasks that are neither urgent nor important can be kept for later.
- Prioritise by Due Date: Prioritise tasks with due dates approaching. Put the items on your to-do list that have a strict deadline at the top of the list. By doing this, you can guarantee that the task will be finished on schedule.
- Prioritise by Effort and Impact: Prioritise tasks that will impact your objectives most while requiring the least work. Decide which tasks are relatively simple and will affect your goals most.
- Prioritise based on Batching: To reduce the mental load of consistently switching between tasks, group your tasks by context. For instance, group your project work, inbox maintenance etc., together. Doing so lets you finish tasks more quickly without constantly changing between different contexts.
- Prioritise according to Optimal Schedule: Schedule your most crucial tasks when you are most productive - for example, first up in the morning. You can accomplish tasks more quickly and avoid burnout by doing this.
Prioritise your to-do list to focus on the most important tasks and delegate tasks to others to manage stress at work. This will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
2. The Science-Backed Reason You Need to Start Taking Breaks at Work
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help you be more productive in the long run. Taking short breaks throughout the day can help you recharge your batteries and refocus your mind.
A recent study by the University of South Australia found that regular breaks throughout the workday can help lessen fatigue, increase energy, and boost productivity. According to the report, workers who took brief intervals throughout the workday reported:
- higher job satisfaction
- fewer physical and mental health problems
- higher productivity
- better workload management.
Short breaks can also assist in lowering stress levels and enhancing mental wellbeing, according to a study by the Australian Institute of Business. According to the report, taking brief breaks—even five minutes—can help elevate mood and lessen stress.
Creative Ways to Take Little Breaks at Work
- Try a "walking meeting" for a 1:1 instead of using a meeting room
- Do a quick task like watering a desk plant to break up your day
- Listen to your favourite song or podcast for a few minutes
- Try the Netflix special Headspace: Unwind Your Mind to decompress
- Set a daily "you've got this" reminder on your phone (it could be a quote for the week, or a phrase that encourages you and reminds you of your goals)
- Go outside and get some fresh air, even just for a few minutes
Remember to take breaks regularly throughout the day to keep your energy up and avoid burnout. These little breaks can significantly impact your productivity and overall wellbeing!
3. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management Techniques to Boost Your Productivity
Time management techniques like time blocking or the Pomodoro method (a time management method based on 25-minute stretches of focused work broken by five-minute breaks) can help you manage your time more effectively.
Benefits of Time Blocking
- Better time management: The Pomodoro method encourages you to work in short, focused bursts, which can help you make the most of your time and prioritise your tasks more effectively.
- Increased motivation: By setting a timer and working in focused sprints, you may feel more motivated and energised to tackle your work.
- Improved productivity: The Pomodoro method (and similar time-blocking strategies) helps you focus on a specific task for a set period. This can help you work more efficiently and productively, as you'll be less likely to get distracted or multitask.
- Reduced stress: By breaking your work into smaller, more manageable chunks, the Pomodoro method and other time-blocking strategies can help reduce the overwhelm and anxiety of tackling a large project all at once.
- Improved work-life balance: By working in short bursts and taking regular breaks, the Pomodoro method can help ensure you're not overworked, allowing you more time to recharge and enjoy life outside of work.
By breaking your workday into smaller chunks and focusing on one task at a time, you can reduce your stress and improve your productivity. Experiment with different techniques to find the ones that work best for you.
4. The Importance of Balance: Taking Care of Yourself Beyond the 9-5
It's essential to prioritise your wellbeing when you're stressed at work, but how can you get enough sleep, eat a wholesome diet, and consistently exercise when you're anxious and overwhelmed?
We live in a world where technological advancements make our lives easier and more efficient. So, why not improve your daily routine outside of work with smart tech?
Clever Ideas To Use Tech Outside of Work for Stress Reduction
- Smart alarm clocks monitor sleep patterns and wake you up at the right time, with features like white noise generators to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. For example, Fitbit has this tech built-in as Smart Wake. Apple Watches have similar features too.
- Tracking your nutrition and hydration can help ensure you get all the essential nutrients your body needs while staying within your desired caloric intake. For example, bite.ai allows you to automate food diary logging with machine learning. Simply photograph your meal, and it will log it for you. This tech is still young, but it's exciting to think this is just around the corner.
- Fitness tracking apps provide detailed information to track progress. Fitness tracking apps provide accountability and motivation, track activity and improvement, provide customised feedback, and encourage healthy competition. For example, FitnessAI is an artificial intelligence app that develops personalised training programs for each user.
Part of balance is about taking care of yourself outside of work. And that doesn't have to mean bubble baths and spa days. In addition to the foundational element of caring for yourself, like food, movement and sleep, here are some restorative, science-backed self-care practices to try.
Imaginative Ways to Practice Self-Care
- Forest bathing: A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that spending time in nature can improve mood, reduce stress, and boost overall well-being. In Australia, researchers at the University of Queensland found that spending just 30 minutes a week in nature can reduce the risk of depression and high blood pressure.
- Make art: According to a study by Beyond Blue, a mental health organisation in Australia, engaging in creative activities can improve mood, reduce stress, and increase overall well-being. Art therapy has also been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Belly laugh: According to a study by the University of New South Wales, laughter can reduce stress and improve mood. The study found that people who watched a funny video experienced decreased cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.
- Try a new recipe: Cooking and baking can be therapeutic and rewarding. A study by Deakin University found that people who cook and prepare their own meals are more likely to have a healthier diet and overall lifestyle.
- Adult colouring books: According to a study by the University of Melbourne, colouring can reduce anxiety and improve mood. The study found that people who colour for just 10 minutes a day experienced a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Dance it out: Dancing is a fun and effective way to improve mood and reduce stress. A study by the University of Western Sydney found that people who engaged in dancing experienced decreased symptoms of depression.
- Take a nap: According to a study by the Sleep Health Foundation, taking a nap can improve cognitive function, reduce stress, and increase overall well-being. The study found that people who take regular naps have better mental and physical health outcomes.
Remember, self-care is all about doing what makes you feel good. So feel free to think outside the box and try something new.
5. Stronger Together: How Seeking Support Can Help You Overcome Life's Challenges
If you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed at work, don't be afraid to seek support. Talk to your boss, a colleague, or a friend about how you're feeling. Sometimes just talking about your stress can help you feel better.
Stranger Danger? Think Again! The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers
A study by researchers at the University of Melbourne found that brief social interactions, even with strangers, can significantly improve mood and well-being. The study involved over 500 participants who were asked to have a 10-minute conversation with a stranger or an acquaintance and to rate their mood before and after the conversation.
The study found that participants who conversed with a stranger reported a significant increase in mood compared to those who had no interaction. Participants who talked to an acquaintance also reported an increased mood, but the effect was less significant than with strangers.
The researchers suggest that these findings highlight the importance of social connection and support for mental health and that even brief interactions with strangers can be beneficial.
Types of Australian Mental Health Professionals
If you're feeling really overwhelmed, consider speaking to a mental health professional. In Australia, there are five main types of mental health professionals you can reach out to:
- Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and provide therapy for sever mental health issues.
- Psychologists offer traditional talk therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy to help treat mental health issues.
- Social workers can help individuals and families access social services and support groups.
- Counsellors provide cost-effective treatment and support for mental health issues.
- Marriage and Family Therapists can help improve communication, resolve conflicts, and provide support.
Managing work stress can certainly be challenging, but it's not impossible. Prioritising your workload, taking breaks, using time management techniques, practising self-care, and seeking support can all help you manage your stress and improve your productivity.
Taking proactive steps to manage your stress can improve your overall wellbeing and make you feel more in control of your workday. So take a deep breath and get started - you've got this!
Be the person who knows just what to say, when someone is stressed, or struggling with their mental health, both at work and in your personal life, with a Mental Health First Aid course. Register now: https://mitraining.edu.au/training-workshops/mental-health-first-aid/