We all know stress can have a detrimental impact on your health and wellbeing – it can even contribute to shortening our lives.
But funnily enough, knowing that fact, which is ironically stressful enough in and of itself, doesn’t make calming yourself down after a hard week at work any easier.
And when you have to work to live, avoiding stress and anxiety can feel like a pipe dream.
But even though we can’t exactly change the entire nature of what we do for a living overnight, there are things we can do to help minimise the impact that work stress has on us after we clock off.
Get to know your stress
Counselling Directory member Georgina Stumer tells Metro.co.uk that it helps to understand your stress first.
‘How it makes you feel, how it ebbs and flows, and what triggers it?’ she explains.
‘Challenge yourself to spend a week tuning into your “stress sensations”. What happens to your breathing and bodily sessions when you feel stressed? How long does it last? Are there any lifestyle factors involved – do you feel more stressed after caffeine, sugar, or poor sleep? Are certain people or tasks triggers for your stress?
‘When we audit our stress sensations we discover patterns that help us to understand ourselves better.’
She adds that doing this can help you start proactively managing your stress.
‘Now that you’ve tuned into your stress sensations, ask yourself – what do you need to do to keep calm and relaxed?’ she explains.
‘Think about how you can apply what you have learnt to your patterns of caffeine consumption, sleep hygiene and other lifestyle factors.’
Set some boundaries
Georgina as well as her fellow counsellors Andrew Harvey and Amy Baglietto all agree that setting boundaries is key.
‘Are you also doing work in your own time?’ says Georgina. ‘If so, is this a genuine requirement of your workplace?
‘Or perhaps you’re simply trying to live up to an unrealistic expectation of what you can achieve.’
Andrew suggests implementing specific working hours and avoiding any email checks or work-related calls where you can when you’re outside of those set hours.
Meanwhile, Amy suggests making sure your colleagues and bosses are aware of these boundaries when you set them.
Make a plan for Monday
Before you clock off on Friday, it can help to have a game-plan for the following week.
Amy says: ‘Create a to-do list or prioritise your tasks before leaving the office on Friday.
‘This will help you organize your work and ensure that you have a clear plan for Monday. By knowing what needs to be done, you can confidently leave work behind.’
Work out a wind-down routine
It can be hard to switch your brain off after an intense week, but there are activities you can do to help.
Andrew tells us: ‘Engage in relaxing activities after work to transition your mind and body from work mode to a more relaxed state.
‘This could include going for a walk, listening to music, practising mindfulness or meditation, or pursuing a hobby. This creates a full stop to the work day. ‘
Get into some hobbies
Speaking of hobbies, whether you’re trying something new or returning to an old favourite, getting into some past times can be a great stress reliever and take your mind off work.
Amy says: ‘Engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones, exercise, read a book, or pursue any activity that brings you joy and takes your mind off work.’
Amy also recommends adding some mindfulness techniques and activities into your routine, like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and/or yoga.
Swerve the screens
Yes, we know it’s hard, but screen time in general can be stopping you from chilling out.
‘In the book Stolen Focus, Johann Hari adeptly shows us how screens remove our ability to relax, de-stress and focus on things that are important to us,’ says Georgina.
‘Think about what’s stopping you from reducing the time that you spend online. Experiment with using downtime features on your phone.
‘Notice if you make excuses for yourself – do you really need to be accessible 24/7? Do you really need to use Google every time a question comes up?’
Structure your stressing time
While you don’t want to give your stress too much airtime during the weekend, it might not help to just push it down either.
‘If it’s hard to ignore your work stress,’ says Georgina, ‘set a timer.
‘Give yourself an allocated amount of time, and a pen and paper. On your paper, make a list of all the things you are stressed about, placed in two columns: things you can control, and things you can’t.
‘When the time’s up, give yourself a couple of minutes to reflect on the exercise, and then see if this approach is helpful.’
Do some self-care
Self-care isn’t just about long baths and face masks – although we certainly don’t knock that.
‘Take care of your physical and mental wellbeing by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and engaging in activities that rejuvenate you,’ says Amy.
‘This will help you recharge and approach work with a refreshed mindset.’
Chat with your support network
Unfortunately, some jobs are just hell, and while there are things you can do to set yourself up for as little stress as possible, all the trying in the world might not be able to fix that.
But no matter what, your support network is there to, well, support you – and that can involve a therapist too.
‘Sharing your feelings can provide emotional support and perspective, helping you let go of stress,’ Amy tells us.
‘Sometimes, talking through your concerns can help you find solutions or gain a fresh outlook.’
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