Historically, working environments have been more difficult for women. Glass ceilings, not being taken seriously in STEM industries, coming back into the office after having a family and sexism at work are just some of the hot topics when it comes to the way women are disadvantaged to succeed.
Although we already knew all of these pressures existed, government statistics now show that women are officially dealing with higher levels of work-related stress and anxiety than their male colleagues, with many of it stemming from the female-centric issues above.
In fact, figures show that from the age of 25 stress levels begin to skyrocket, with millennials among those feeling it most.
Although this sounds depressing, the most important thing is that it’s being talked about. Whether it be the hilariously dark Instagram illustrators sharing their depictions of anxiety through sketches on social media, celebrities openly discussing their mental health, or the surge in popularity for bullet journals, the conversation is happening.
Though the taboo appears to be slowly breaking down, if you struggle with stress and anxiety in the workplace, there are some tools you can arm yourself with to try and tackle it. That’s why we’ve spoken to Liz Walker, the HR Director of employee benefits company, Unum, to educate ourselves on the best ways to soothe stress at work.
She’s given us 10 tips around mindfulness, designed to help you slow down your thought process when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control. So the next time your workload seems overwhelming or a colleague sparks an anxious thought in your mind, come back to these 10 techniques to help you through.
Many of the techniques mentioned involve mindfulness, which is a popular method of combatting anxiety. Mindfulness can stop you worrying by bringing your attention back to the present through acknowledging your worries and letting them go. Mindfulness allows you to get in touch with your emotions and recognise how you feel.
Take a step back
Viewing thoughts and worries as if they are show or film you’re observing can be a good way to disconnect yourself from them and to finally put them out of your mind.
Accept strange thoughts
We all have strange thoughts from time to time, such as ‘what if I scream during a presentation?’. These thoughts are natural and will jump out from time to time. When this happens instead of focusing on it, describe it to yourself as the curiosity it is and move on. Remember, our minds are creative with lots of little thoughts floating about.
Recognise false alarms
Everyone has the sudden worry they didn’t lock the front door or left the iron on, however rarely do these things actually materialise. When you find yourself thinking along these lines and notice your body responding with a rapid heartbeat, recognise the situation for what it is. Acknowledge the thoughts and sensations but let them pass.
Positive Self Talk
Often we’re far harder on ourselves than we would be on others. Try to talk positively to yourself rather than putting yourself down, like you would if you were talking to a child or friend who was nervous. Telling yourself phrases such as ‘this feeling will pass’ and ‘I will be ok’ could help to reassure you and reduce stress or worry.
Set Aside Worry Time
Sometimes worries can niggle at us and prevent us from doing things we should be doing. When this happens jot down the reason you’re feeling anxious and resolve to think it through later. By the time you get to doing that it’s likely many of the worries you’ve noted won’t be an issue anymore.
Question Your Thoughts
Feeling anxious can make our thoughts spiral out of control and think outlandish things. When you find this happening try to question your thoughts by asking yourself such questions as ‘is this worry realistic?’ and ‘what is the worst possible outcome and would it really be that bad?’.
Learn To Say No
Don’t take on too much, if you’re overloaded with work and extremely busy but given more work, try to push back. Talking to your boss about the situation will give them a better understanding of your workload and could allow you to push back deadlines or receive some help with a task.
Keep a diary for a week or two to track which situations make you feel most stressed and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts and feelings and what you did as a result; this can help you find out what situations make you stressed and your reactions to it.
Talk About It
Voicing your concerns, worries or feelings to an attentive and trusted listener can feel very cathartic. The person you speak to doesn’t have to ‘fix’ things, just listen to you even if it doesn’t change the situation.
Liz Walker is the HR Director for Unum, a leading employee benefits provider.
If you’re specifically suffering from anxiety at work and want a short-term, immediate solution, you might be interested in our tips for tackling mental health issues at your desk in under 10 minutes.