May is Mental Health Month, and human resources professionals should know that workplace stress remains high. According to a recent survey, 62 percent of employees report high levels of stress leading to extreme fatigue and feeling out of control. The consequences are serious, but we’ve got 10 tips that can help your employees cope.
Highly stressed workers are less likely to eat healthfully, exercise, and get enough sleep. Constant stress can lead to health problems, such as high blood pressure, gastric distress, or headaches, and can contribute to injuries caused by stress-induced distraction.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) describes job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.”
Whether or not your company has established a formal stress-reduction program, you can help your employees in a number of ways.
First, make sure managers and supervisors are aware of the signs of stress, including changes in attitude, inconsistent performance, being late to work or missing deadlines, tiredness/irritability, being overly “jumpy,” withdrawal, and increased use of sick leave, among others. Also, reinforce with them the availability of your wellness and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
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You may also want to share this list of 10 tips to help employees identify and self-manage their own stress.
1. Know yourself. Be aware of your stress level and the things that stress you out. Learn your own signals and pay attention to them. For example, if you’re always late to work and feel stressed and anxious, change your pattern and find a way to leave more time.
2. Recognize how you deal with stress. Do you turn to unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, or eating poorly? Do you lose patience with coworkers or family members when you feel overwhelmed at work?
3. Set rules for devices. Consider rules like turning off the cell phone when you get home or establishing certain times for returning calls. Be sure to communicate these rules with others so you can manage expectations.
4. Keep a to-do list. It’s stressful to constantly think of things that you should be doing. Clear your head by putting those thoughts in writing. Divide out “work” and “nonwork” tasks and indicate those with the highest priority.
5. Take responsibility. Acknowledging that you are responsible for your own stress levels can be an important step. No matter what the sources of stress (bad boss, too much work, too little time, etc.), the issue comes down to how you react to them.
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6. Take a break. It may not seem like much, but a short (1- or 2- minute) break several times a day can help you stay energized and productive. Stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, and clear your head. Every few hours, pause for 10 minutes to recharge. And avoid the temptation to work through lunch.
7. Take care. You’ve heard it before, but it really does help—eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. No matter how hectic life gets at work or at home, you’ve got to make time for yourself. If a vacation isn’t in the offing, carve out time for a hobby or a good book.
8. Change your head. If negative thinking is causing stress, work to break the pattern. If trying to do everything to perfection is the problem, try to modify your expectations, realizing that unrealistic goals are going to set you up for failure—and undue stress.
9. Learn to manage conflict. It’s easier said than done, but resolving conflict in a healthy, constructive way can help relieve work stress. Focus on the present, avoid the temptation to dive into old resentments, and listen to what the other person is really saying.
10. Ask for help. Accepting help from supportive friends and family members can help you better manage your stress. Take advantage of employer-based services like an EAP, counseling, work/life balance programs, or referrals to mental health professionals.
In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll discuss the basics of EAPs, plus an introduction to the free webcast from ARAG, Legal Benefits—Best Practices for Every Employer.