I often envy people who genuinely love their jobs, and wake up each day, invigorated and raring to go. Sadly, it seems like this only applies to the minority, and the divide between those who love their job and the rest of us, seems to be getting wider.

Work Stress Ball

Of course we all have the odd “bad day” at work, but it’s easy to see that the current economy is piling on the pressure. Never have we felt more like “wage slaves”, trapped in careers that we find unfulfilling yet are financially obliged to continue in. It’s important to take measures to protect yourself from stress taking a serious hold. If you’re struggling then these tips might help.

Is the problem a one-off or a recurring pattern?

Obviously there are always work stress situations which fox us. If this is happening regularly then get some clarification. Unless you’re the MD and run the company, there is usually someone above you who you can get some clarification from. Admitting you need to ask advice is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign that you want to do your job well.

Get support at home

Being stressed drains your energy, so don’t be afraid to ask for support with responsibilities such as childcare or household tasks. If you feel like life is a never ending hamster wheel only broken up by periods of sleep, you’re going to feel very resentful very quickly. If you live alone, allow yourself a bit of slack. Life really is too short. If you are a single parent see if you can arrange a night to yourself on a regular basis by getting grandparents involved or swap babysitting with someone else in your position.

Look after the little things

When I’m stressed I often find I eat very badly – work stress always affects my sleep, so I’ll usually skip breakfast for the sake of five extra minutes of precious sleep. That means I’ll usually go through an entire shift at work having eaten nothing, and running on empty from lack of sleep, which is not going to help anyone. For me it, making a sandwich the night before, and grabbing a cereal bar and a banana to eat at work in lieu of breakfast was the solution. That little change means that I don’t feel quite as tired at the end of the working day.

Hold onto the good stuff

It’s easy to let work stress overshadow everything because by nature stress is a cycle of ever increasing circles. It’s important to try to redress that by doing things you enjoy and spending time with other people you love and who love you, whether that be simply having a cuddle with your partner/children/pet or having a night watching a great film and a gossip with a good friend.

If your social circle is limited look into joining groups of people with similar interests – reading groups, stitch, language classes, whatever floats your boat. Set time aside regularly for the good things – treat those times like appointments and stick to them – your happiness is important and should be as much of a priority for you as everything else going on. Writing lists of good things that have happened to you each day can be enough to make you feel better – sounds cheesy but it works!

Rest and recuperation

Try to improve the quality of your sleep by making sure you keep work out of the bedroom – don’t sit in bed working on the laptop or reading through papers, because you need separation between work stress and rest. Try a night time routine which helps your mind and body to unwind. A hot bath and a warm milky drink often work wonders. Some people say that reading or watching TV in bed is a no-no – personally I find I need a bit of “white noise” and often fall asleep with the TV on and the volume turned down very low.

Solution or further problem?

The odd glass of wine after work is fine, but if you find that you are creeping up to a bottle a night, smoking more cigarettes, or whatever it is that floats your boat, ask yourself if this might be doing more harm than good. Alcohol/cigarettes/whatever might help you feel relaxed on a temporary basis, but over time it’s likely to create another problem alongside work stress to deal with. If you’re finding it hard to give up your nightly fix, then get help – GP’s can often point you in the right direction for a wealth of help. Again, this is not a sign of weakness; it means you are trying to take control back over your life.

The over-riding message of this post is that life is about balance – if you find you’re life is all about work, and you have no room for any pleasure, then  the balance is tipped in the wrong direction. If you have any tips on work stress to add then please do!

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