We all know that in today’s busy society, overall stress levels have risen – one key factor of this is work-related stress. At Feedr, we are well aware of the importance of this, and strive to prioritise wellbeing in the workplace. Despite wellness in the workplace being one of our main focuses, it’s also something that we, as a team, have grown to understand and learn more about.
Being Mental Health Awareness Month, we thought it apt to start the conversation about stress in the workplace. It’s vital we understand that prioritising your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You could appear to be in perfect shape, eating your five a day, and keeping fit – but that doesn’t mean you’re healthy.
With work-related stress being one of the main causes of workplace illnesses in the UK, it is important to recognise when it’s an issue and learn how to address it. We spoke to corporate nutritionist and public speaker, Miss Nutritionist about her top tips on how to deal with stress in the workplace. We’ve also included a few personal stress-busting tips from members of our team too!
What happens to our body and mind when we get stressed?
Let’s delve into the simple biological impacts that stress has on our body. Firstly, it’s important to know that stress isn’t all bad. Stress is your body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. It can help you rise to meet challenges, and it’s what keeps you on your toes during an important presentation at work. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships and overall quality of life.
Stress and the ‘fight or fight response’
When you feel stressed, your nervous system responds by releasing hormones such as adrenaline. This prepares the body for emergency action, your heart beats faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises and breathing quickens. These physical changes sharpen your senses, increase your strength and stamina and enhance your focus.
This ‘fight or flight response’ can either optimise or hinder your performance. This is dependant on the situation and frequency of stressful experiences. If you tend to get stressed often then every system in your body can be disrupted. It can even lead to further mental health issues, leaving you vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
So what can we do to reduce stress?
As we’re all well aware, avoiding stress is a near impossible task, but if we can learn a few tips on how to deal with stress better, we can reduce the long term effects and decrease the frequency of extreme stress. Here are a few top tips to help you manage those day-to-day stressors:
Being the front and centre of our business (as well as most of our minds!), food is the perfect starting point!
When eating to reduce stress, we know it’s not new advice, but it really is true that you need to avoid processed foods such as sugars, common allergens like gluten and dairy; and stock up on foods which are high in fibre and protein. Adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels, so it’s important to stabilise these by watching our consumption of products high in sugar. Although it might be tempting to reach for that sugar-filled biscuit in the office kitchen, try to switch to a healthy alternative, like raw vegetables and hummus. Alternatively, a fruit tea can help satisfy a mid-afternoon sugar craving!
“Take a full hour for lunch and get out. If you can step away from the stressful environment and change scenery this will massively help to reduce stress levels.” – Miss Nutritionist
Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? It makes us feel brighter, healthier and ready to start the day. Sleep has also proven to help reduce the feelings of stress, leading to a more positive mindset. Unfortunately, sleep often tends to be the first thing affected when we feel stressed, so it’s a bit of a catch 22. If sleep it something you struggle with, then spend time winding down before getting into bed. Try reading, playing calming music or drinking herbal tea and be sure to avoid drinking caffeine past 5 pm.
“Listen to music. Your favourite track. It will literally make you feel happy and bouncy because it lifts the stress response. It should give you a new boost of energy” – Miss Nutritionist
Did you know? Music has a unique link to our emotions and can be used as an extremely effective tool to manage stress. Quiet and calming classical music can have a beneficial effect on your physiological functions, slowing your pulse, heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. So put your headphones in, find a relaxing playlist and let the music calm your mind.
With an abundance of proof for the correlation between exercise and a healthy mind, getting active is a brilliant way to deal with stress. Exercise helps improve self-perception and self-esteem, mood, sleep quality as well as reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. If exercise isn’t your thing, something as easy as walking 30 minutes a week can help get those endorphins pumping. Try getting off the tube or the bus a stop early to get your steps in!
Talk about it
One of the best ways to deal with stress is opening up and talking about your concerns with someone you trust. Who knows, they may be able to help with the situation, if not, studies have shown that the simple act of putting your feelings into words is cathartic and calming.
Take a break
“Take 10. Whether it’s a stroll around the office, a herbal tea break, or a trip to the loo to do some breathing exercises – anything that breaks the stress cycle. You can set alarms at two intervals in the day – one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon to take 10” – Miss Nutritionist
Everyone needs time off, whether that means lying on an exotic beach in the sunshine or simply turning your phone off and spending valuable time with someone you’re close to. We all need to be able to establish boundaries between work and play. It’s during these times we are able to slow our busy thoughts and relax, thus slowing your heartbeat and help manage your stress.
Miss Nutritionist pro tip: “Looking out onto the horizon makes you feel a sense of perspective and breathing out slowly for just 5 seconds automatically reduces cortisol and stimulates the calming hormone”
Here are some personal tips from the Feedr team on how we manage workplace stress:
- Charlotte – Head of Marketing: For me, it’s staying hydrated throughout the day. Whether water or green tea, I make sure I always have drinks on my desk to remind myself to re-hydrate regularly. Plus, I find getting up to refill bottles/mugs is a good 5 min break from my laptop screen which helps me with my overall concentration.
- Lyz – Co-Founder & COO: Schedule your commute to when it’s the least stressful for you. I come in early because I find travelling right at rush hour through London to be way too stressful and can put me in a bad mood all day.
- Ash – Senior Developer: I like to cycle to work, it’s the perfect way to start the day with light exercise and makes my commute to work a lot less stressful. I also find being outside in the fresh air helps to clear my head and prepares me for the working day.
Whilst we hope these tips can help those looking for some stress management advice, it’s also important to consider other lifestyle factors which may be impacting your mental health. If you would like further advice, Mind.org is a great source for help and support.