Workplace Stress: Signs to Look Out For, How it Effects Our Health And Techniques to Cope
By Chelsea Cox, Founder of Well Defined
Have you ever experienced the Sunday dread? I have and at the time I had let it creep in earlier and earlier to the point I would go to bed on a Saturday dreading Sunday because I would be dreading Monday! It’s a hell of a vicious cycle. I am certainly no mental health or stress expert, when Rebecca kindly asked me to write this article what I really wanted to do was share my own journey in Workplace Stress in the hope it will help someone or at least give them the courage to talk about it.
In my opinion, a certain level of stress in the workplace is normal, I know even yoga instructors and actual stress experts who experience it, what isn’t normal (whatever normal is!) is when it starts to impact on your personal life and you no longer experience a good level of work freedom. That is the pickle I found myself in!
At the time of this pickle, contrary to what you might be thinking, I had a good job, my pay was good, I was managing a fantastic team and I was very successful in my field which was & still is sales. I have always been very self driven & motivated, you have to be in sales, you will experience way more no’s than you will yes’s and you have to create a thick skin that enables you to keep chasing the money. I was always of the belief that the monthly sales target I was given were an absolute must so I put myself under immense pressure to achieve it and I did..every single month. So what was the problem I hear you ask? Well it was exactly that, I achieved targets every single month through pushing myself to my limit, this quickly became the expected from Chelsea Cox, regardless of how high the targets are set, how much the budgets were squeezed, how many people weren’t replaced as a result of budget cuts, she will go out there and achieve it. Unfortunately as the targets got higher, the days never did get longer in the sense of any human being only ever has 24 hours in the day only 7 of which in by opinion should be dedicated to work.
Looking back I would say my true stress journey started when the company I was working for adopted “flexible working” which meant everyone was given a laptop to allow them to work “freely” - now don’t get me wrong, flexible working is the future but it has to be done in the right way. In my opinion, flexible working where I worked at the time meant something very different to what it should be, to them it meant having email access to you 24/7, I would get emails at 9/10pm from my senior requesting information and expecting a response, of course you could say I shot myself in the foot from the very first time I responded at that time of night but there we go! I found myself working later in the weekdays and also weekends which gave me no time to switch off, it was impacting on my sleep which in turn made me snappy with the people who matter to me the most and I had a constant feeling of overwhelm.
The turning point for me came one day when I managed to lift my head out of the clouds and take a good look around me, for the first time I really noticed the performance of my peers, they were working hard in office hours, not always hitting targets but certainly not putting themselves under the stress I was. I plucked up the courage to talk to someone about how I was feeling and how I was letting work impact my life, I guess I have always been that “strong” person who didn’t really talk about emotions but the moment I opened my mouth to say I was struggling it practically gushed out of me (snot n’all) when I got home I sat down with my partner and told him everything, my god did it feel better! He reminded me of what was important. I guess you could say that during this time I was struggling with stress related to a bit of imposter syndrome, I was desperately trying to prove that I, a woman, a mother, someone with no qualifications could match up to my peers. Something had to change, I started leaving my laptop at work, I switched my emails off my phone and started working “smarter” I slowly released the pressure I was putting on myself over the following couple of months.
Did it get better? No, in fact following on from this I went through the hardest 6 months of my professional career but I coped with it so much better than I would have had I not have put the work in place beforehand. Following on from this I left the corporate world to start my own business, Well Defined. Having your own business is of course stressful but i’ve taught myself a few techniques that allow me to manage it in a better way, they are:
Swimming, I try and go at least 3 times a week in the morning before the day gets hectic, it gives me real peace of mind and allows me to completely switch off.
When I feel overwhelmed I do something for myself, go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, allow myself to relax, switch off and clear my head.
Know that my life, my family, my mental health are far more important than business and money.
Do more of what makes my soul happy, I totally switch off at weekends now and am fully present with my family.
Before I end I wanted to share some official referenced facts & stats on workplace stress:
According to Bupa UK, the definition of work related stress is how you feel when you have demands at work that exceed your ability to cope.
Almost 12 million days are lost each year because of perceived work related stress, nearly half a million in the UK have work related stress at a level that’s making them ill.
Signs of workplace stress:
often rush to get things done
try to be in too many places at once
don’t take breaks or miss lunch
take work home
don't have enough time to exercise or relax
spend less time with your family
don’t take your full holiday entitlement
work longer hours
Work-related stress can cause both mental and physical effects. Everyone reacts to stress in different ways so the impact of it can vary and depends on your personality and how you respond to pressure.
Some common mental effects of stress include:
feeling that you can't cope
finding it hard to concentrate and remember things
not feeling motivated or committed
feeling disappointed with yourself
Emotional effects of stress include:
feeling more emotional – you might be more tearful or sensitive
feeling irritable, or having a short temper
If you feel you might be struggling with workplace stress, please take the first step and speak to someone. Work to live, don’t live to work, your life is beautiful and you need to make the most of it.