Being challenged at work is what most people are referring to when they say, "a little bit of stress is good for you." However, when we face overwhelming demands that can’t be met, that “good for you” challenge can transform into stress and frustration—and eventually, perhaps, illness or injury.
Although dealing with stress is a normal part of everyday life—in fact, it can sometimes serve as a powerful motivator for positive change—it is important to be on the lookout for some of the early warning signs of unhealthy stress:
- Anxiety or depression
- Low morale
- Short temper
- Stomach or back problems
The good news is that it is possible to reduce the impact of unhealthy stress by identifying key stressors in your life and finding effective ways to manage them. If you are feeling burdened by stress, consider one or more of the following stress-busting strategies:
1. Plan and prioritize. Set realistic deadlines. Creating pressure will only increase the probability that you’ll make a mistake. Always have an alternative plan in mind. Give yourself time to think projects through instead of rushing to finish them.
2. Focus on what you can control. Create a to-do list to prioritize your work. Break larger tasks into smaller, more doable steps. Begin with the most pressing tasks and then move on to less important projects.
3. Slow down. Think things through before you act, and begin with a clear goal in mind. This way, you’ll avoid having to start over halfway through a misguided project.
4. Think outside the box. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or overworked, search for alternative ways to get the job done. By doing so, you could save time and money and put your projects into a fresh perspective.
5. Use all your resources. Learn to effectively delegate tasks that you cannot handle. If you cannot finish a project internally, explore outsourcing options.
6. Take a break. To relieve stress, make time to take a break. Taking a walk or discussing your work situation with another person may help you gain a new outlook.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the leading cause of absenteeism in the United States is depression. Although depression is a common medical issue, many workers say they feel uncomfortable vocalizing their struggles with depression and other mental health issues. Though that is understandable, if there is an issue that you feel is preventing you from working effectively, it is ultimately in your best interest to reach out for help.
Health problems, whether physical or mental, can have profound and far-reaching effects on our everyday lives. Untreated mental health issues often cause problems in our personal and professional relationships, and can even contribute to physical illness. Although starting a conversation about your struggles with mental health can be daunting, the alternative—silence—is extremely unhealthy. Silence can encourage your fears and anxieties to grow and fester—forcing you to retreat and suffer. Discussing these issues with a co-worker, friend or your doctor removes some of the power that mental health issues have over your life.
Knowing where and how to start is the most difficult part of any conversation. Follow these five tips to make it easier to discuss your mental health:
1. Start small – Not every conversation has to be formal. Sometimes, something as casual as talking about your morning can be a good start to discussing your mental health.
2. Say what you really feel – Knowing what to say is not always simple or easy—especially when it is about mental health. Regardless, explain what you are experiencing as clearly as possible without relying on clichés that may mask how you are truly feeling.
3. Find out more – Your mental health is important. You may want to look into how you can manage it or how to discuss it with your doctor or those close to you.
4. Give yourself time – While those close to you may be ready to discuss your health, you may not be. If you are feeling anxious about starting the conversation, give yourself some space.
5. Think about what you want – Come up with what you feel is the ideal plan for getting your mental health back on track, and then, when you are ready, discuss this plan with your doctor and/or those close to you to put it into action.