Stress at work can be tough to avoid, especially if you are stuck behind a desk.
Combined with long hours, it can take a serious toll on mental health, especially for women according to a new study.
The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that women who put in 55 hours or more every week at work had a higher risk of depression. Working weekends also increased depression risk for both men and women.
Researchers looked at data from Understanding Society, the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), collected from more than 23,000 men and women.
Women often had to juggle work with household duties and caring for family members.
But there were a few factors that seemed to affect mental health no matter the person’s gender. Older workers, workers who smoke, those who earned the least, and those who had the least control at their jobs tended to be more depressed when compared with other workers.
Psychological problems, including stress, anxiety, and depression, are behind one in five visits to a GP.
Recent statistics on stress and burnout emphasize the importance of treating such conditions as promptly as possible, in order to improve the lives of those struggling to cope. In the past year alone, a reported 74% of people surveyed had felt so stressed at some point; they had been too overwhelmed to cope with everyday tasks. In the UK, 12.5 million working days are lost each year due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, and in 2016/17, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related ill health cases and 49% of all working days lost due to ill-health.
–Steve Clarke, psychotherapist and therapy services manager at the Priory’s Life Works Hospital in Woking, Surrey
In recognition of Stress Awareness Month, Clarke says there some things people can do themselves to try and manage their own stress. These can be carried out during the working day, at a desk.
1. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Repetitive finger tapping can sometimes help to release negative emotions such as anxiety. EFT has been called a psychological version of acupuncture in that it involves making contact with several acupuncture points.
The specific points to tap are the end-points of the major meridians. Meridians are believed to be channels of subtle energy which flow through our body.
While focusing on your negative emotion, you tap on a ‘meridian’ point (the eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, chin, collarbone, under the arm and top of the head) 3-7 times, repeating your negative thought in your head.
After each emotion, take a deep breath and exhale. Continue this until you feel calmer and relieved. When you achieve this, repeat the technique while you tap through a “positive round,” repeating more uplifting phrases.
2. Guided meditation apps
Many apps like Headspace offer different types of meditation for various concerns, or simply basic meditation. They typically offer meditations as short as 3 minutes and up to 20-minute sessions.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This can also be done at any time during the day. PMR involves tensing and releasing muscles at specific intervals.
There are guided versions available online for free on YouTube.
4. Deep breathing
Take a long deep breath while counting for 5-8 seconds, then hold it for 5-8 seconds. Repeat several times to relieve anxious/stressed feelings.
This can help re-center you during a busy workday.
5. Eat healthily
Avoid comfort eating and instead, choose food that increases your energy and gives you sustainable nutrients to get you through the day.
6. Prevention is Key
Plan out your week or day ahead and create a checklist of things that need to be completed by priority. Give yourself enough time to complete each task and schedule regular breaks to avoid burnout.
Reward yourself for completing tasks, even if it’s as simple as crossing it off the checklist.
7. Change What You Can
Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. So accept what you cannot change and focus on the things you do have control over – such as looking for another job.
8. Adjust Your Environment
Put on headphones and listening to music can have many benefits, such as helping you relax and focus on something you enjoy. Take a walk – even it’s just to the water station and back to your desk.
Ideally, enjoy some fresh air. Changing your environment can clear your mind and re-energize you.