• Stress at work can take a toll on your overall health

  • Mark Simmonds explores five common workplace stressors and how to combat them

  • We have coaches available to support you here

The pandemic has shaken everything up including the world of work. Although some things, like the advent of hybrid working, have no doubt changed things for the better, general levels of stress in the workplace are unfortunately heading in the wrong direction.

Here are five common stressors and some thoughts as to how you might be able to deal with them:

1. Misalignment between you and the job

Fundamentally, it’s important to view your job in the same way you might review any meaningful relationship with another person. If it is going to survive in the long-term, it’s important that the values you hold dear are also held dear in the company where you are working. 

For example, if you are a raging extrovert who loves constant interaction with others, the buzz of banter and incessant corridor conversations, then you want to identify a culture where this is the norm. 

Or if you are a person who always puts people ahead of profit, then you are going to struggle if you find yourself in a company where the push for profit always trumps a concern for people. 

Once your core values have been compromised, it’s hard to keep stress at bay for that long.

2. Lack of purpose and meaning

Sir Tom Moore was able to walk around his garden 100 times, aged 99, because he was doing so for a very good cause. The frontline workers at the NHS were able to work ridiculously long hours because they were saving lives, the noblest of all causes. 

If the work you are doing, day-in and day-out, has little or no meaning or purpose, then it will be hard to find the resilience you need when the going gets tough. Find a job that is worth doing or at least identify some aspect of the job that is meaningful and you can be sure that your resilience muscle will come to your rescue when you need it most.

3. The pressure of workload

A never-ending heavy workload can have the same effect as the pain of water torture. The continual drip, drip, drip, drip of the daily grind will soon begin to wear you down both mentally and physically. 

This pressure is amplified if: 

  • you don’t enjoy what you are doing
  • you do not possess the adequate skills to carry out the job
  • you find yourself under time pressure to complete tasks. Deadlines and long to do lists do not work well in combination.

4. Lack of control

It is basic human nature to want to be in control of your own destiny. Being out of control in too many different areas can have a negative impact on your wellbeing. Having little say in the work you carry out, the people with whom you work, as well as the environment within which you work, can be a significant source of stress, when taken in combination. 

Try and identify the aspects of your job that you can control, and then take control! But at the same time, try not to fret over the things that you can’t control. That would be a waste of your mental resource and will end up causing you even more stress.

5. Failing to look after mind and body

Sustaining and strengthening your wellbeing must be a number one priority in your battle against stress. Exercising regularly, socialising sufficiently, sleeping soundly, eating and drinking healthily are all little habits that you can acquire, all of which will help provide you with the resilience you require to deal with the negative effects of ‘bad’ stress. The brain can only take so much punishment before it gives up the ghost and packs up. And if it does come to a grinding halt, it might be some time before it kick starts into action once again. And that is something to avoid at all costs.

Looking at the five points listed above, 1 and 2 are more strategic in nature. These represent actions that you can take to find a suitable job, and making the correct choice will help to reduce the levels of stress in itself. If you don’t find a job where there is correct alignment between core values or one which is devoid of purpose and meaning, then it puts more pressure on you trying to counter the stressors outlined in points 3, 4 and 5.

Mark Simmonds run a creativity agency called GENIUS YOU and is the author of Beat Stress at Work

Further reading

How to identify your values and what you need from your career

Managing work-related anxiety and Sunday dread

6 habits to thrive in life and work

The benefits of career coaching

5 tips for talking about your mental health at work