Learn to recognise some signs of acute work-life stress and the positive steps you can take to manage or prevent it.
“Work stress can be normal, but when there’s no let up and you start to give up on things such as trying to get home on time, or find yourself checking work emails at night, you know you have a big issue,” says Helen Rimington.
Signs of acute stress can include:
- Thinking and worrying about work outside of work hours (especially if you’re having difficulty sleeping).
- Turning to unhealthy habits such as alcohol, drugs or emotional eating to help you cope.
- Losing interest in activities you once loved such as catching up with friends or playing sports.
- Becoming irritated and snapping at loved ones.
- Reacting unprofessionally at work.
If this sounds like you, then you might want to take a look at your work-life balance.
“It could be time to do a few things to manage stress better and set some boundaries,” Rimington says, adding that ignoring the problem could lead to serious illness such as anxiety or depression.
“When people are chronically stressed they often stop problem-solving and being optimistic. They may feel ‘I have no choices’, but they do, and just acknowledging this can be a big step forward,” Rimington says.
Start by setting boundaries between work and home.
“The healthiest people I know draw boundaries, such as turning off their email notifications at certain times if they don’t trust themselves not to check it,” Rimington says.
Next make small changes to your work day, such as daily 20-minute walks at lunch while listening to your favourite upbeat music.
“This is a small change, but suddenly you may start feeling better as you’re getting more exercise, taking a break from work and using positive tunes to give you a boost,” Rimington says.
Stop stockpiling your leave
and take regular breaks from work to recharge you batteries. Rimington says we can ‘normalise’ work stress so effectively that it’s often only when the situation changes, such as when we go on holiday, that we realise how stressed we were.
Speak to a loved one, your manager or the Employee Assistance Program at work about how you’re feeling. Change is often more successful if you’re supported.
Taking small steps now will help you take back control of your life, and hopefully leave you feeling happier and healthier.