Top tips for managing stress and striking the work-life balance

With continued funding cuts stretching workloads ever further, AXA PPP healthcare’s director of psychological services, Dr Mark Winwood, shares 10 top tips for how to manage stress at work by identifying the real problem and doing some basic wellness checks

Stress in the workplace can have devastating effects on mental health and productivity. Here are some top tips to help you deal with stress:

1. Start by doing some very basic wellness checks – do you need to increase your exercise, improve your diet or get more sleep? Fairly simple changes in these three areas can improve your outlook and ability to cope with stressful situations at work.

2. Challenge your thinking – do you find yourself taking a negative perspective on work issues? Could there be a more balanced view? Take some time to focus on the positive – what are your strengths and what have you achieved?

3. Make sure you give yourself some time to relax. This is especially important at times of big change – such as starting a new job or taking on a new role and/or added responsibilities.

4. Think about what you have the power to change in your current circumstances and prioritise these things, rather than worrying about areas you can’t control.

5. Make lists and plan workloads – by ticking jobs off your list you’ll start to feel a bit more in control.

6. Duvet days don’t pay. Don’t just avoid work – the chances are your workload will increase while you’re off and add to your troubles.

7. Identify the real problem. It is important to think about what’s making you want to ‘phone in sick. Are you afraid of failing? Sometimes we’re our own worst critics. Think about what you’d say to a friend or a colleague in the same situation – would you be as hard on them as you are on yourself?

8. Look at some of the great resources that can help you build resilience. There are many useful books and websites that offer tools for coping with stress.

9. Don’t ignore the people who care most about you. Call on the friends and family members you have around you – asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.

10. Most importantly, if you’re having trouble at work, don’t bottle things up. It’s helpful to share your concerns, so speak to your manager or a supportive colleague.

What needs to change?

Ask yourself the following:

What are the three most important things in your life at the moment?

To what extent does the time you spend on them reflect their importance?

What types of tasks are on your ‘to do’ list? Are they your priorities, or someone else’s?

What wastes your time? Could you do anything to stop it happening?

What pressures are you under at the moment? Can you prioritise these?

Could anyone help you with any of these tasks?

What would you rather be doing?

What can you change to help you achieve what you’d rather be doing?

Maintaining the balance

The list of suggestions to help you maintain a balance is extensive! Although most of them are common sense, some are frequently over-looked and often succumb to outside influences. Here are a few of them:

Don’t over-commit yourself.

Delegate tasks where possible.

Make a list – or plan – and stick to it.

When you identify a problem, talk to someone about a possible solution.

Focus on critical tasks.

Don’t take work home unless absolutely necessary.

Don’t miss meals to save time.

Plan a holiday.

Your wellbeing is down to you to protect

By introducing some rules to running your daily life, and being consistent in encouraging the same behaviours within your team, you could start to achieve more of a balance and make improvements:

Make daily schedules.

Don’t be a perfectionist.

Learn to say ‘No’!

Decide what’s important to you.

Learn to prioritise.

Plan ahead.

Combine several activities.

Accept help if it’s offered.

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