The modern workplace is often one of high demand on employees, particularly in the competitive environment of a city such as Hong Kong. Bupa Global partners with leading psychologist Oliver James to provide tips for achieving better workplace wellbeing.
Many of us spend around a third of our lives at work. Long hours, deadlines, ineffective management and difficult relationships with colleagues can all contribute to stress, affecting our physical and mental wellbeing. Managing and avoiding work stress can not only improve our professional and home life, but help us to live longer.
“Evidence shows that if you suffer depression or anxiety from stress, you’re more prone to heart attacks and other illnesses,” says Oliver. “You’re also more likely to be short-tempered at home, and to struggle with personal relationships.”
The fundamental problem, he adds, is that most of us now work in sectors where it’s difficult to measure the contributions made within our organisations. “Whereas once you needed to make 100 items a day to be paid a certain amount, today you have to be evaluated by your boss’s personal, subjective judgement of the value of your contribution.”
Here are just a few ways to tackle work stress:
#1. Meditate, exercise or do yoga
“Whatever your job, whether you’re stressed or not, exercises like yoga or meditation are a fantastic antidote to stress,” says Oliver. “If you have a higher level of cortisol, you’re in a hyperactive state and can’t calm down. The most practical way to reverse this is to practise mind control. Misunderstandings can be poisonous in an office environment, escalating stress levels.”
#2. Improve your communication skills
Astuteness is at the heart of effective communication. You need to be able to read other people’s moods and body language. “Practise reading body language and ‘mirroring’ when possible – smiling or flattery, for example; those tactics work. They only work if you’re astute, though. Be aware of what tactics to use, on what person, at which moment.”
#3. Don’t worry about other people’s pay
Money can be a big causes of stress. “The great mistake you can make with bonuses is to have a discussion at the point where your boss hands you the envelope,” Oliver says. “Put the effort in before – make sure your boss grasps and understands what you’ve contributed to the business. Also, don’t worry about what everybody else gets paid – just concentrate on what you’re happy with being paid.”
#4. Be the best version of your self
According to Oliver, when somebody’s having a proper tantrum, their responses are clouded by emotion, and the level of cortisol means their capacity to think has collapsed. “You need to stay calm. If you can stay in a detached, calm state behind a persona you’ve developed for the office, you’ll be much better equipped to cope.” He adds that this detached side of your personality is important for managing stress. “Develop a persona to deal with your work. It should be based on who you really are, obviously, but you’re always going to be a different person at work than away from the office, and developing calmer characteristics can help you to deal with others who are struggling.”
#5. Pay attention to signs and symptoms
While prevention is ideal, many of us encounter workplace stress despite our best efforts. If you think you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, talk to your GP; they may suggest medication or talking therapy, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Stress can also affect the way you behave, from eating and drinking habits to how much you sleep. These changes can further increase stress and create a vicious cycle, so it’s important to tackle them, whether that’s by combating comfort eating, cutting back on alcohol or taming insomnia.
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This article first appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.