Stressed out at work? Here are some tips to reduce it

With nearly 20 years of experience working in mental health and well-being, Dr. Louise Cowpertwait is more passionate than ever about helping people and communities manage their sense of well-being, especially in the workplace. Louise is the founder and CEO of the MindMatters Clinic, which works with organizations around Aotearoa to deliver happy and healthy workforces where people feel well supported.

I have my own experience with mental health challenges and have dealt with the shame around it, especially being a psychologist myself, he admits. I have seen the importance of leaders speaking openly about mental health and well-being, whether in the workplace or in our communities. We need to talk about these things more.

Two key feelings that people often experience in the workplace are stress and overwhelm, especially during busy times like Christmas or when there is a lot of change.

Through my work, I have noticed a clear increase [in stress]. According to the data, there is an increase of almost 25 percent when people face more serious or complex well-being challenges. People’s workloads have risen and increased. As a nation, we have also faced a tremendous amount of change and uncertainty. Some of us have been exposed to traumatic events such as Cyclone Gabrielle. There is definitely a time when we should take care of our well-being.

Stress is when we face a challenging time and we don’t see how we have the resources to cope with the challenge, explains Louise. When we were stressed, our brain tells the rest of our body that there is a threat and tries to put all its energy into that threat. We get an adrenaline rush, our heart beats faster, we may sweat more and feel nervous. We can only sustain this for so long, so after a while we start to tire.

Overwhelming is the state of mind we get into when we are stressed. Our minds are busy with thoughts and concerns, we have trouble concentrating and we are easily irritated or upset, which is not conducive to performing our best at work.

When we were overwhelmed, we don’t solve problems or think creatively because our brains have gone into survival mode, so we were really attached to our direct experience, says Louise.

Her advice for dealing with these feelings in the office is first and foremost to take a step back from your thoughts and feelings. There are three proven ways to do this by talking, journaling, or changing your environment, whether it’s going for a walk or, if possible, going on vacation.

The next step, Louise recommends, is to assess your situation. Ask yourself: is there anything you can change? Can you talk to your supervisor about your workload? Can you delegate or outsource tasks to keep things more manageable? Can you visit your GP to have your mental or physical health needs addressed?

For me personally, I work on filling my wellness kit (toolkit) every day, says Louise, who has left toxic workplaces with horrible bosses in the past. However, she admits that not everyone can do it, and says there are lots of smaller things you can do to keep your well-being full.

I practice mindfulness meditation and do yoga. I like to cook from scratch, I prioritize time with my friends and time alone to relax. My partner and I have Trashy Tuesdays every week, where we primarily spend time together watching bad TV and eating fun snacks. I’m walking. I try to listen to my body intuitively so I can respond earlier if I need something. I get therapy when I need it.

The key, says Louise, is to remember that we are all different and have different needs. Find the one that suits you and collect the little things that feed your well-being.

5 healthy habits to help keep you on track

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Breathe deeply to slow your body down
  • Do one thing at a time instead of rushing
  • Create healthy boundaries between work and home life, including digital distractions
  • Connect with nature, people (loved ones and your community) and meaning or purpose.

Join Samantha Veitch below as she guides you through an energizing yoga session.

Next week, we’ll explore how you can keep healthy habits on track during the busy holiday season. Sign up for more dedicated wellness videos

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