A good work-life balance can be a challenge for many, but when your work is all about taking care of people, the associated emotional involvement means that striking that balance can be even more difficult. Worry and concern about a client’s or patients’ condition is more difficult to leave at
the end of the day than paperwork at the office. The increased level of stress that comes as a result can impact on care workers’ wellbeing and this can lead to mental health problems.
It’s important to recognise the symptoms of being overly stressed so that you are able to deal with these pressures before things get even worse. Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. It’s the distress that’s caused as a result of that overload. Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. If you feel that you get easily irritated and overwhelmed or anxious, then you’re probably stressed. Stress affects us physically too – tense muscles, palpitations, stomach problems, headaches – are all symptoms of stress.
Here are five ways to help manage and reduce stress:
One of the key resources for managing workplace stress – whether it’s an unmanageable work-life balance, work overload, unreasonable or unrealistic demands – is the ability to say “no”.
You may worry that by refusing to do something or put up with something, others will be dismissive, get annoyed or upset. But saying nothing and suffering in silence is not going to make things better! The Mental Health Foundation recommends that “when work demands are too high, you must speak up.
This includes speaking up when work expectations and demands are too much. Employers need to be aware of where the pressures lie in order to address them.”
Be Assertive; Set Limits
Being able to turn other people down is an ability that will help you manage other people’s requests, demands and interruptions.
If you’re unwilling or simply unable to do what’s been asked of you, you’ll need to say no. Be clear and direct; no waffling, excuses or elaborate explanations.
Don’t blame someone or something else, just be honest. You only need one genuine reason for saying no. Just say what it is. Acknowledge the other person’s response and then either stand your ground or choose to negotiate and compromise.
Get Closure; Leave Work at Work
- Reflect. At the end of each day (and at the end of each week) give yourself a positive debrief; write down three positive things that happened that day. Things that, no matter how small, you achieved, you learnt, made you laugh, a positive interaction with someone else. For anything that didn’t go well, ask yourself what you’ve learnt from that and what you might do differently, next time.
- Disconnect. An activity that’s completely different from what you do at work is a good way to get away from pressures of work. It could be hiking or cycling or playing a sport. It could be something creative artistic or musical. Whatever you enjoy doing, make sure you set aside time to do it. And do more of it more often!
Practice Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Get active. Our physical health and mental health are closely linked; physical activity can be beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing too. The benefits can be immediate. So get up and get moving!
- Eat well. If you’re unsure about how healthy and balanced your diet is, try keeping an eating diary. Write down everything you eat in a week and then go to the NHS website nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/ to see how your diet compares and what changes you could make.
Go to Sleep
Create for yourself a calm, relaxing bedtime routine. If you’re having difficulty getting to sleep, don’t tell yourself ‘I can’t sleep. I’m going to feel horrible tomorrow.’ This sort of self-talk creates a stress response that makes the problem worse. See if listening to something on the radio, listening to music, an audio book or a podcast distracts your mind; gives it something else to engage with.
Seek Out Nature
Try and organise your days so that you can spend time in nature. Mind has lots of tips on how to bring some benefits from nature into your life, whatever your personal situation. Go to mind.org.uk and search for ‘ideas to try in nature’ and ‘nature and mental health overcoming barriers.’
If you, however, you find it more and more difficult to manage the pressure, don’t hesitate to seek professional medical and psychological advice.