If you’re feeling stressed about work, you are not alone. The workplace seems to be becoming a more stressful environment. In the UK, like many other countries, we are still recovering from the economic crash of 2008 and now the Brexit vote has added to perceived uncertainty in the job market. Times have changed and there is no such thing as a job for life anymore. Newer contracts often give employees less of a feeling of permanence than contracts of the past and the “gig economy” adds flexibility for employers at the expense of certainty for employees. There is also a growing culture, an implied expectation in many sectors, of longer working hours. This is fuelled in part by an increasing sense of competition amongst employees, either for promotional prospects or simply to retain current jobs. In this environment it is easy to feel you have little, if any, control or even a say in your job. It might feel like working longer hours gives you an edge in the short term, but working these hours in a stressful environment can make you ill in the longer term. A little stress can improve your work performance, but once optimal stress levels are exceeded your performance can suffer, adding to anxiety and creating a downward descent into self doubt, sleepless nights and exhausting, unproductive days. But what is available if you’re looking for treatment for workplace stress?
Treatment for Workplace Stress
So, the relationship with the work environment can be a stressful one. And, like any relationship, we are left with three stark choices – we can vote with our feet and leave; we can try and change it; or we can simply try to adapt to the status quo. Leaving certainly can alleviate immediate work stress, but there are potential downsides. What if there isn’t another job to go to? Unemployment brings its own stresses, as does going through the recruitment process. And what if leaving becomes your default way of dealing with stress? If the stress turns out to be largely internally generated, it will simply follow you wherever you go. Alternatively, attempting to bring about change in your current workplace might seem daunting, if not impossible, especially if you feel like a small cog in a big machine, or you do not feel you have the support of the management. Even in a relatively supportive environment you may struggle to know where to start trying to influence change or you may find you lack the confidence to speak up. Sometimes, when we’ve exhausted all other alternatives, we may have to accept the current situation, for the time being, and try to make the most of it. Effective treatment for work stress should therefore help you to: evaluate all your options objectively, make changes where possible and to adapt where change is not possible.
How can CBT help with workplace stress?
Cognitive behavioural therapy offers both psychological and practical assistance with work stress.
Psychological help for workplace stress management might include looking at how your own internal rules and beliefs, such as excessive perfectionism or a tendency to please others, might contribute to stress. It may also examine common errors in thinking, such as unfairly comparing yourself to others, that affect the accuracy of how you perceive your situation. Once a clear conceptualisation of the stress and stressors is developed, you and the CBT therapist will set about various tasks and activities to help you reduce your stress and manage stress better.
Practical help for workplace stress management might include exploring options, assessing potential outcomes and examining the various pros and cons of alternative actions. It might also include improving time management and communication skills and finding ways to assert your needs.
Top tips for Managing Work Stress
Manage your time – take the time to plan how you use your working day and don’t simply “fight fires” all day.
Start with the most important job first – this might be the most difficult or perhaps one that makes other tasks irrelevant.
Don’t multi-task – feeling busy does not equate to being productive. Plenty of research indicates that a single task focus is far more efficient than multi-tasking.
Email – check and respond to email at set times only and turn off alerts that are likely to distract you. If necessary, set up an autoresponder letting the sender know the times you check email.
Manage expectations – get better at managing the expectations of others. Be polite but firm in setting appropriate boundaries with a manager or client who believes absolutely every job he gives you is urgent.
Breaks – take regular short breaks. The longer you spend uninterrupted on a task, the less productive you become. Get up, pay a visit to the bathroom, the water-cooler, a colleague’s desk or get a breath of fresh air and have a stretch. It is surprising how these short breaks can increase productivity.
Chunk down – some tasks feel like climbing a mountain with no summit in sight. They can be completely overwhelming and you may put off starting them. Divide these tasks into more manageable chunks – nearly every task is achievable if you break it down enough.
If you have any questions about working with a therapist, or anything else in relation to the Achieving Balance therapy practice, please contact me on 020 7096 8854 and I will be happy to discuss these with you.