Workplace Stress is becoming all too commonplace within the Canadian workforce. With 62% of workers reporting that work is their main source of stress, it is time to better manage our levels of stress and mental health concerns. One of the most efficacious methods of combating workplace stress is mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a
term that has garnered a lot of attention over the past few years. It has
emerged as an effective tool to help combat the ever-growing issue of mental
health issues within the workplace. Mindfulness is the mental state achieved by
focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, whilst acknowledging and
accepting your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. The ‘objective’ of
mindfulness is to allow yourself to observe your feelings and thoughts without
judgement or criticism. Mindfulness is often used in meditation, as well as, some
forms of therapy as a means of lowering stress, reducing negative self-talk and
inner judgement, and defending against mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression
What is Stress?
Stress is the
body’s reaction to adverse or overly demanding circumstance. Experiencing
stress is a normal part of life, however, it can feel overwhelming at times. You
may experience stress as a result of interacting with your environment (work,
school, home life), physical effects on your body or your overactive thoughts. Unfortunately,
stress may also result from positive changes in your life such as a work promotion
or the birth of a child. It is important to learn to manage your stress healthily
to ensure good mental health and keep from further distress.
Work, a Major Cause of Stress
If you experience
feelings of stress at work, you are most certainly not alone. Work-related
stress can arise when harmful physical and emotional responses occur when the
requirements of your job-related tasks or duties do not align with your
capabilities, skillset, resources, or comfort levels. Work-related stress may
seem like something completely normal to experience, and to some extent, it is.
However, it is crucial that this stress is dealt with, rather than ignored;
neglecting the symptoms of stress as it can impact your mental health and potentially
lead to physical injury.
Good Work-Related Stress Vs. Bad Work-Related Stress
Canadian spends roughly 40 hours per week at work. If you are experiencing
negative stress in the workplace, this is a large percentage of your time spent
‘stressed out’ and discontent. It is important to recognize ‘bad’ stress so you
can combat these symptoms and lead a healthy work-life. Common symptoms of
negative workplace stress include feelings of anxiety, irritability,
depression, fatigue, have trouble concentrating, or physical symptoms such as
an upset stomach or muscle tension. Of course, these issues may not be directly
related to workplace stress, but they are indicators that you should pay
attention to. Negative workplace stress can have a physical and emotional
impact on your wellbeing.
Not all work-related
stress is negative. Some forms of stress may motivate. ‘Challenge stressors’
are an example of good workplace stress. This type of stressor works to help an
employee reach their goals and help them achieve growth. For example, setting
time constraints on projects or giving a sizeable workload would both help the
employee strive to achieve more and accomplish their tasks within a reasonable
timeframe. Any work-related stressor that serves the purpose of motivating,
without causing undue strain may be good.
Causes of Stress in the Workplace
There are countless reasons why someone may experience workplace stress. One of the most common causes are the requirements of the job. Unfortunately, many workers encounter situations where they are being asked to do something outside of their scope of knowledge, capabilities or comfort levels. When this happens, it is completely normal to experience negative stress, as you begin to worry about how you are going to accomplish your task. If you work with a team who does not support you and/or your ideas, you may also experience negative stress. This may lead to low morale, which in turn may cause further stress. Having poor managers or a subpar work environment are also common causes of stress in the workplace.
How Stress Negatively Impacts Mental Health
Living with stress
can impact your mental health. Traumatic events that cause feelings of stress
can lead to anxiety and potentially, depression. Stress causes the release of
neurochemicals that impair the function of the area of the brain in charge of
higher-level thinking. These neurochemicals, namely, cortisol and
norepinephrine, are released when we experience feelings of stress, heightening
reactive tendencies by lowering reflective tendencies. This, in turn, may leave
you with feelings of anxiousness, restlessness, a lack of motivation,
irritability, and sadness. These feelings are normal when experienced
sparingly. However, if you are stressed for prolonged periods, the impact can
strongly affect your emotional wellbeing.
How Employers Can Address Stress in the Workplace
Employers have the
power to help reduce the prevalence of workplace stress. When employees are
stressed, it can affect their job performance and productivity; nurturing an employee’s
mental wellbeing is beneficial for all parties.
encourage physical activity. Exercise has been known to reduce stress, reduce
fatigue, and improve concentration. By creating an office environment where
it’s easy for employees to get up and move around, you can help mitigate the
harmful effects of workplace stress. Another way to help is to encourage
employees to take a walk during lunch or offer discounted gym memberships.
reduce workplace stress by making their employees feel valued. When an employee
feels like they are disposable, this can create a state of job insecurity and stress
as they worry about doing enough to continue being a part of the team. Managers
should take a moment every so often to communicate with their employees to let
them know they are a valued part of the team. Making them feel secure in their
position will help reduce stress levels. By being proactive and participating
in these destressing activities alongside employees, office morale will be bolstered,
which in turn, often leads to a reduction in workplace stress.
There are several
techniques you can employ to help reduce your workplace stress and create a
calmer environment. Taking care of your body will have a positive impact on
your mental wellbeing. Start exercising regularly, get enough sleep, and eat
healthily. Try to prioritize your work tasks and plan your day’s schedule so
you aren’t scrambling for time to complete last-minute tasks you may have
another helpful tool that can help you reduce your job-related stress. If you
begin to feel overwhelmed at work, take a few moments to concentrate on your breath
and allow your worries to fade into the background (even if for a moment). Find
a quiet space, away from everyone and the bustle of the office. Close your
eyes, focus on your breath and make a conscious effort to focus only on this
moment. Try to remain open-minded and judgement-free. Try not to think about
the past or the future, just be in the present moment. Notice your thoughts,
feelings, and sensations surrounding you. Try to let your thoughts pass by
without thinking about them. Now that you’ve had a few minutes to focus and
recenter yourself, you may notice a renewed, revitalized and refreshed feeling.
This should help you return to work feeling less stressed.
The lives we lead
are naturally full of stressors, many of which are beyond our control. Most of
us spend the majority of our day at work, so it’s important to make this a
healthy and productive environment. A few minutes of daily mindfulness can
greatly improve your feelings about workplace stress and increase your general
wellbeing, helping you feel more confident, content, and ready to conquer the
rest of your day.
Mindfulness Space offers workplace mindfulness training workshops for stress reduction, staff development and mindful leadership, in Montreal and Ottawa.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.