I always wondered why we are always so concerned about a proper work life balance. Is it because we struggle to tear ourselves between the two, or that work is such a huge part of our life that it impacts on everything else we do? In the present economy, many of us feel that we are now more at the mercy of our bosses, transferring a lot of our power to them because we are worried about keeping our jobs.
Perhaps we need to begin to think about this in another way. Perhaps what we should really be focusing on is managing stress at work. If we can better manage stress at work we will be able to see our life more clearly and set better goals. By prioritising overcoming stress at work we resolve problems that impact on the rest of our life.
A client I was working with said work was a lot like dodgeball, but your feet are glued to the floor. Things are thrown at you and you have no alternative but to get hit by them. You feel that your have no real choice and, with the economy the way it is, it is really important to hold on to any job with both hands, both legs and your teeth.
So how can we manage stress in this kind of environment? How can we find a perfect balance of ‘I don’t mind being here’ and ‘I hate this place!’? Well, the problem with work is that you feel powerless. As part of your role, you have to relinquish power and give it to your line manager. This loss of power is at the core of feeling stressed. Lack of control is extremely stressful, because you feel that you don’t have the power to change your situation. You feel trapped, which leads to frustration, which leads to stress. Left unchecked stress can be very damaging to your health and can lead to feelings of anxiety.
So the first thing you need to do is take control back. So here are 5 tips for you to redress the work-stress balance:
1. Learn to say ‘No’. You are not a machine. You have a finite amount of time to do a finite amount of things. Learn to explain this to your supervisors at work (remembering not to let those bottled up feelings explode! Ed). Start by using this simple template: ‘I can’t do that, because…’, where the ‘because’ leads back to your workload. If you get this sentence right your line manager is forced to make a decision to prioritise your work, making them take full responsibility for your workload.
2. Leave work at work. If you’re taking work home it simply means your workload is unrealistic. Your workload should be managed in a way that it can be done during your contractual working hours. See tip one for more information.
This includes mentally and emotionally leaving work at work. Stress is like a virus, your emotional state is transmitted to everyone you come in contact with. Why infect your family with your bad mood?
3. Misery loves company. Moaning about your job with colleagues only means you end up taking onboard the stress of others. It’s a continual cycle with no resolution. Colleagues should be there for support, not to enable your unhappiness.
We all have choices, even when we feel like we have none. Instead of moaning about work, seriously look into alternatives. Working for money’s sake is no way to spend your day. A good goal for a career is to make money doing something you love to do. A better goal is to make money doing something you love to do that other people need.
4. Chill out. Listen to music while you work, music that motivates and stimulates. Take a book to work and dedicate your lunches to some escapism. Dedicate your 15 minute coffee or cigarette break to some mindfulness techniques. It’s amazing how just 15 minutes of mindfulness can improve your work-stress balance.
5. Never eat lunch ‘Al Desko’. Some people feel they are so stretched at work they don’t even eat lunch. Not only is that terribly unhealthy, it also makes you weaker at a time when you should be refuelling. It is also unhealthy taking your lunch at your desk. A lunch break is an employee right and you should never feel compelled to eat and work at the same time. Take you lunch break away from your desk, away from work and allow yourself a stress break.
Remember, you are in control, you simply need to communicate this better to your line manager. Often a line manager is simply unaware you are overloaded at work or you have given them the impression you are coping well. Be honest about how you feel and speak up when things are becoming overwhelming. You’d be surprised how empowering this can be.