16 December, 2020

We all get stressed at work sometimes. From long hours and looming deadlines to high-stakes pitches and difficult customers, most jobs involve some degree of stress.

Research shows around 20% of Aussies take time off work each year because they feel mentally unwell. While some work-related stress is common and reasonable, it can be a major risk factor for anxiety and depression if it's excessive and ongoing.

We hope these strategies help you manage and reduce your workplace stress and achieve a healthier work-life balance.


Allocate time to worry

It’s unrealistic to tell yourself to simply stop stressing about work. Trying to avoid these thoughts altogether will likely have them popping up here, there and everywhere.

Some experts recommend scheduling ‘worry time’ into your day to address all of those niggling thoughts that distract you mid-conversation and keep you up at night.

Dedicate 15-20 minutes to worrying about work after you’ve clocked off for the day. During this time of reflection, write down all the worries you can think of and any potential solutions that come to you. You don’t have to solve them then and there – simply writing them down can be therapeutic and provide some clarity.


Use ‘do not disturb’ on your devices

Who has the self-control to see a notification pop up and not check it? Just seeing you have an email from your manager outside of work hours is enough to get you worrying what it could be about.

Don’t let work thoughts and hypotheticals creep in after hours. Protect your personal time by activating ‘do not disturb’ or ‘out of office’ on your work phone and emails, and get in the habit of leaving your work devices off or in a drawer until you’re on the clock.


Find a fulfilling hobby unrelated to your profession

There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about your job, but it’s not always healthy to tie your entire identity to what you do for a living. Having hobbies and goals unrelated to your job can bring a more well-rounded sense of purpose to your life and encourage a healthy work-life balance.

Sit down and think about the things that bring you joy. Ideally, these should be unrelated to your professional skills to help your brain separate work from leisure. For example, if you’re a mechanic, you should try to find enjoyable activities that don’t involve tinkering with tools and engines. This could be anything from exercising and going to the movies to baking and playing an instrument.


Try relaxation techniques before bedtime

Does your brain do cartwheels when you lie down at night? Can’t get your mind off your to-dos for the week? If job stress sneaks in when you slip under the sheets, you might like to try some relaxation techniques before you hit the hay.

Some common calming strategies include:

  • Avoid screens before bedtime. Blue light from electronic devices can throw your body clock out and make it tough for your mind to switch off. Skip the late-night Netflix and scrolling for at least two hours before you go to bed.
  • Have a hot bath or shower. Research shows bathing one to two hours before bed in water at 40-43°C can help you fall asleep 10 minutes faster. This helps us regulate our body temperature and produce the ‘sleepy’ hormone, melatonin.
  • Try guided meditations or sleep stories. If your mind goes straight to stressful thoughts when left to its own devices, a relaxing guided meditation or bedtime story could be a welcome distraction. This soothing background noise is designed specifically to help you fall asleep.


Take sick days when you need them

You’d likely be sent home from work if you were coughing and sneezing, so why should it be different when you're having mental health issues? Sick days are there for when you’re feeling physically or mentally unwell.

The great news is mental health is becoming a less taboo topic in the workplace, especially following COVID-19. So if you’re not feeling mentally well enough to work, speak to your manager about taking some time to regroup. And don’t forget to speak up or ask for help if your workload or expectations are getting unmanageable.

If you’re having a tough time coping with work stress, talking to one of our counsellors might help. You can learn more about our counselling services here, or call 1300 364 277 to book an appointment in person, over the phone, or via video chat.

Discover surprising stats on how COVID-19 workplace changes have impacted our mental health in this article.