Stress – we seem to feel it a lot. Whether it’s from work, personal reasons, or just the pressures of modern life, stress just seems to appear.
It’s hardly a surprise, is it? From pandemics to the cost-of-living crisis and looming recessions, it’s pretty understandable that we’re feeling stressed.
But stress isn’t fun. In fact, it has detrimental effects on mental health and overall quality of life, so why should this be accepted as the new normal?
Unsurprisingly, the top cause of work-related stress is the workload. We’ve all heard that a small bit of stress is great for productivity in the workplace – and whilst this may be true in some circumstances (emphasising some), it’s time we start looking after our teams, and ourselves, a bit better.
74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Feeling stressed contributes to poor mental health because it increases anxiety levels, and in some cases can lead to depression. As a leader, it’s not always easy to spot the signs of stress, even within ourselves, but it’s important to recognise the symptoms.
Some of the stress symptoms include:
When the workload is building, and stress levels are rising, it can begin to feel like an endless spiral. Productivity levels will fall, and for some team members, job roles begin to lose their spark, leading to lower retention.
Let’s face it. No matter what, stressful situations will always arise in the workplace (oh, the joys). But is it possible to manage stress, and even spot the signs early to mitigate its effects for you and your team?
Mindfulness is a technique which involves noticing what’s happening in the present moment, without judgement. You might take notice and be aware of your mind, body, or surroundings. The technique has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.
It’s so easy to get stuck in our own heads and forget what’s really important. And honestly, we can be brutal to ourselves. Whether it’s believing our own imposter syndrome, or just letting the bad thoughts and anxiety overwhelm us, it’s time to catch a break. According to mental health charity Mind, practising mindfulness helps relieve the pressure of stress by:
Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind but about focusing on the present moment and being engaged with the task at hand. It helps you catch a breath, and find calmness and clarity, allowing you to respond to stressful situations.
Practising mindfulness helps your people stay composed, and gives them the best chance of overcoming challenges whilst protecting mental health – but how can you encourage this in the workplace?
Being in busy office spaces can be overwhelming, especially if your people are used to the remote-hybrid way of working. If possible, create quiet spaces around the office that allow people to work, or break, in a peaceful environment so they can focus on their own thoughts and tasks ahead of them.
It sounds so simple but we’re all guilty of skipping a break here and there because we have too much to do. Breaks are so important because it gives your people a chance to breathe, get refreshments, and clear their head by taking a walk. We all have work commitments and tight deadlines, but if your people aren’t taking breaks and become burnt out, the work won’t be getting done at all.
Like most things, beginning to practice mindfulness isn’t always easy without the right guidance. Invest in a course that teaches you and your people the simple techniques and exercises to help you feel more resilient, focus on the now, and protect from burnout.
When there’s so much going on, it can be difficult to feel creative or productive because there’s little time to focus on one thing. Encourage your people to block out time every day, even if it’s just an hour, so they can focus on the task at hand. Allowing time to focus on one project enhances job satisfaction because your people are more productive and efficient when completing these tasks.
It’s easy, especially in a remote-hybrid working world, to let the week go by with just small bursts of communication with individual team members. But as a manager, it’s so important to set aside time each week to check in with your people. 34% of UK workers said a cause of their stress was a lack of managerial support. Checking in doesn’t always have to be directly about work – genuinely ask them how they are, chat about weekend plans, ask what they need help with, and discuss what you can do to support them.
Increasing mindfulness in the workplace starts from the top down. Lead by example by taking your own breaks and blocking out time. By setting the standard, you’ll be normalising mindfulness in your team which will support your people to become happier and healthier.
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