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Looking after your mental health at work

Tips On How to Reduce Work-related Stress

By Chloe R

Before I had even set foot in the office, I was greeted by the familiar wave of anxiety and dread that envelops me every morning as I go into work. Thinking of the problems that lie ahead today, the targets I did not achieve yesterday and the voice I cannot ever seem to shake off that says “what is the point in you being here?”.

I know the voice has a point: why am I here? I am undervalued, unappreciated, and unheard.

Being 21, I am one of the youngest people in my office, and for some unfathomable reason, that makes it acceptable for older people and those higher up in the company hierarchy to talk down to and belittle me.

I’m not sure why people are so dismissive towards young people in the workplace; yes we don’t have as much life experience, but we are still people and deserve the same respect as workers 20 years our junior. It’s no excuse to intentionally degrade a person in front of others, blame every error on their “incompetence” (I’m new to the role, of course, I’ll make mistakes I’m human), and use them as a sounding board to hurl nasty comments at. Despite that, I still push on and try to make my way past that. Why I’m not so sure: I suggest solutions to problems and get shot down. I am left out of decisions that affect my working life (such as moving offices three times - once to an office in another town) and expected to not complain. I am spoken to as though I am something someone found on the bottom of their shoe.

There have been many sleepless nights from worrying about the next day at work. My Sunday evenings are consumed with the fear of starting another working week. I have cried on my lunch breaks, cried to my parents, and walked out because I couldn’t handle it anymore. The constant anxiety I have about my work is constant, it never ends. I recently took a week off work and thought about work every day. It is consuming my life and it isn’t healthy.

It has left me thinking - is this it? Is this my life, slowing working my way in roles that undervalue me?

I know I can’t single-handedly change the environment of my workplace, but I have made small changes to my daily routine that have reduced my anxiety at work. I don’t wish work-related stress on anyone, but hopefully these tips will be able to help you as they have helped me:

1) Have your lunch away from your desk

You’re sitting at your desk for eight hours, and at some point, you need some time away. This could be taking a walk, finding a quiet spot in the canteen, or sitting outside on a bench. It’s unhealthy to be sitting in the same space all day, and taking some time away from it will give you the separation you need to enjoy your break. Try not to listen to anyone who expects you to work through your break, or tries to make you feel bad for not finishing your work before you leave. You will be gone for half an hour - everything will be there when you get back.

2) Bring in some home comforts

It may seem like the smallest thing, but bringing my Friends mug from home to drink my coffee lifts my mood. It helps me to realise there is more to life than work and gives me a sense of familiarity. As Friends is my favourite TV show, it is also an excellent conversation starter for fellow Friends fans in the office. The debate of if Ross and Rachel were on a break has a continuous discussion. I’ve also found that bringing in my snacks during the day helps to lift my mood. You’ll never see me at work without my Diet Coke, Milky Way bars, or Quavers. They break the day up and provide that much-needed energy boost. If you can, bring in a blanket from home, a photo that gives you comfort, or play some music as you’re working. You’re spending most of your day at work, you might as well try to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

3) Get some exercise!

I cannot stress this one enough. It is probably the last thing you want to do when you are feeling drained after work, but trust me when I say that exercise will dramatically boost your mood. Each day when I come home from work I try to squeeze in a dance workout or some yoga into my evening routine. It helps me to refocus my energy, relieve me of the day’s stress and it’s something I enjoy. If the weather is nice I will walk some of the ways to/from work, and find that even though it is only a 20-minute walk, I feel much calmer afterward. Or if you don’t have time after work, use the weekend to go on a run, cycle, or hit the gym.

4) Speak to your colleagues

If I quit my job today, the only part of it I would miss is my friends. I value the bond we have gained over the past few months and the connection we’ve built up. They know I have their backs, and I know they have mine. We have laughed together, we have cried together and we have vented to each other. There is not one other person on the planet who understands our role, than them. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, are feeling worried or upset by something work-related, your colleagues will probably be the only people who can relate to you because they are experiencing it too. They may even feel the same way, and you can form a support system.

It’s so easy to neglect yourself and forget the person you are outside of work. When you’re spending the best part of your day working in a job that emotionally drains you, fills you with dread, and seeps into your outside-of-work life, it can be hard to reclaim your wellbeing. It can feel like no one is in your corner, and not being able to shark off the burden of work is at times a very lonely feeling.

Remember: you’re worth so much more than your job. You are not allowed to get everything right or meet every deadline. You are allowed to have time away from your work to reconnect with the outside world. You are allowed to not reply to an email or say no to adding to your workload. We’re all humans and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as every other person in our workplace. If you need to take time off, phone in sick, or have five minutes away from your desk then do it. Nothing is worth your mental health, especially not a role that will replace you as soon as you leave. Make yourself your number one priority.


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