Contracting Life

How to deal with work-related stress

In general, work-related stress refers to stress that occurs when work places more demands on you than you can cope…

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In general, work-related stress refers to stress that occurs when work places more demands on you than you can cope with. It can be caused by a variety of work-related factors such as an excessive workload (or, in the case of the self-employed, not enough work), pressure to meet unrealistic targets or deadlines, or being unclear about your role.

It can result in you feeling as if you can’t cope and can potentially lead to other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Stress can affect you, in the short-term, in many different ways – physically and mentally. According to the NHS, physical symptoms can include headaches, muscle tension, stomach problems, and even chest pains.

Mental symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, feelings of being overwhelmed, constant worrying, and forgetfulness. It can even cause changes to your behaviour such as irritability, sleeping too much or too little, changes to your appetite, and drinking or smoking more than usual.

t’s not always easy to talk about your feelings either, so sometimes these symptoms can rage on unabated, interfering with work and relationships and, in turn, causing more stress.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “That sounds like me,” then you may want to carry on reading. We’ve got some tips to help you deal with your work-related stress, plus some pointers in the right direction for support.


Find the source of the stress

One of the first things you need to do is assess where the stress is coming from. Sometimes it’s obvious: a tight deadline, getting to grips with a new client, or a difficult team member, for instance. Other times, it’s harder to identify any one thing and instead could be lots of smaller things coming together to cause your stress. But, if you can identify what’s causing you to feel stressed in the first place, you can begin to help yourself.

Take a good look at yourself and your work: what things make you feel stressed? Write them all down as they come to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a massive long list, or if you only find a few things, sort them into external and internal factors is the important thing. External are things such as an impending deadline or a late-paying client. Internal factors are, however, rooted in your fears and beliefs.

External factors are more straightforward to deal with. You may need to ask for help or start feeling more comfortable with saying no. Internal factors will need you to do some work on yourself, identifying unhelpful thought patterns, and learning to relax. You don’t have to do any of this alone though.


Speak to a friend or family member

This may not always come easily to you but talking to a loved one can be a big step in the right direction. Sometimes just telling someone how you’re feeling can help you identify the path to take, as well as help share the load.

For instance, if your partner knows the stress you’re under, they will be able to be more understanding of your behaviour. They will also be able to potentially ease some of the burdens on you – for instance, picking up some of your responsibilities at home to give you some extra time.

Feeling stressed is nothing to be ashamed of and it’s something many people experience – you may even find your loved one has been through similar and has some helpful advice for you themselves.


Use a counselling service

If you find you can’t talk to someone close to you (or if you find you need more than just that) you may find a counselling service a better fit for you as it can often be easier to talk to strangers. A trained counsellor will listen to you and help you make sense of your feelings, as well as being able to offer self-help tools that you may find useful.

There are several ways to access counselling. You can speak to your GP who will be able to point you in the direction of appropriate therapies, although NHS waiting lists can be long.

You could also look for local private services which will usually have shorter waiting lists. Some work on an hourly rate while others, which operate as charities, ask you to make an affordable donation instead.

If you have health insurance, you may find you are covered for a number of counselling sessions through that.

And remember, if you are finding things too much, feel you are in crisis, and need support right away, you can find help through Mind or by calling Samaritans on 116 123.

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