In 2016/17, 1,610 employees out of 100,000 said they felt stressed, depressed or anxious because of work (HSE).

Workload pressures like tight deadlines, too much responsibility and not getting enough support from our managers are causing us more work-related stress (HSE).

But we’ve wrongly come to accept that work overload is okay. Because if you’re super busy, that means you must be successful, right?

Yes, stress can be helpful and motivating. But too much and too prolonged stress can actually lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

If you’re feeling stressed at work, try making some of these proactive lifestyle changes to help you get back to being in control…

Learn how you like to manage stress 

You’re going to experience stress from time to time. But if you don’t learn how to cope with stress and manage it, it will start to affect your productivity and your health.

Doing things outside of work that helps you stay happy can then help you to become 20% more productive in the office.

Instead of using your 'me time' to do things that feel a bit like an obligation, like going to the gym, why not plan a little trip away and take a physical break from work. Even things like getting a good night’s sleep can do so much good, and help you feel more prepared for the next working day.

A man sleeping in bed. Getting a good night's sleep can help relieve stress

Stop using the word “busy”

What do you think of when you hear the word “busy”? Maybe you think “no free time, cluttered, no space, no breaks”? Maybe you even think “overloaded”, and you start to imagine feeling trapped?

The words we use and hear conjure up images in our mind. Sometimes something as simple as changing the way we describe things can help us feel happier and less stressed.

Try using words like “productive” and “dynamic” to describe the positive things you’re doing with all the tasks you have on.  

Don’t start working as soon as you get up in the morning

If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your email, your phone, or you try and solve a work problem that’s still hanging around from the day before, stop.

Throwing yourself into work as soon as you wake up can have a bad effect on your long-term productivity. You need to set boundaries and keep your pre-work routine as just that – time before work. It’ll help you make the most of your time at work when you’re there.

A man taking a walk in the winter

You need to make sure you’re not setting an example for busyness

If you’re in a senior role at your company, make sure you’re not making excessive busyness part of your business model. Because more junior employees start to associate busyness with higher up positions. And if they want to move up in the company, they start to think that they’ll need to run themselves into the ground to get there.

As a manager or a CEO, you should be making sure your team is staying healthy, and that when they come to the office, they’re using their time productively. Set priorities for all work so your employees can schedule tasks over a reasonable, and realistic, period of time.

"Busy" is worn like a badge of honour these days. And it’s only reinforced by an “always on” culture that means you’re always available, where you end up thinking you have more work to be doing because you have access to it at home, and then less time to just switch off.

And it’s causing you more stress.

Try not to dip in and out of tasks

Doing many things at once may seem like an efficient way to get lots done in a short space of time. But multitasking can actually mean that you end up spending more time doing each little task once you add all the time up, and this also makes mistakes more likely as you never really give a task your whole attention.

Flitting between tasks can waste as much as 40% of your productive time - time which might be better used if you concentrate on getting one task done before moving on to the next one.

When you get busy though, your default is to multitask more. Try using the 80/20 rule when you have a lot of work on – separate out the tasks you need to do based on how useful they’re going to be to your overall workload, then start working on the top 20% that are really going to help, and make sure you start with the most important task first.

A woman drinking coffee while talking on the phone

If particular events at work are stressing you out, this 5-minute mindfulness routine can help to restore calm. 

And if you’ve been feeling stressed for a while because of work, and it’s starting to affect your general wellbeing, you might find that talking to one of our emotional wellbeing specialists can help you figure out what it is exactly that’s making you stressed.

They can then work with you to find ways to deal with stress, both proactively and reactively.