How to cope with work related stress during Coronavirus

office meeting with colleagues wearing face masks
Our work environment has changed because of coronavirus

Our working lives changed enormously when lockdown started and now as lockdown eases, our working lives will change again.

A recent survey from Glassdoor has suggested that workers in the UK are experiencing anxiety, sleeplessness and depression as they work through Covid-19.

It also suggested that women are experiencing greater levels of work-related stress than men during the pandemic.

The worry of job security was identified as the main reason for higher levels of anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression.

Other worries have been

  • Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work

  • Taking care of personal and family needs while working

  • Managing a different workload

  • Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform your job

  • Feelings that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline

  • Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment

  • Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties

  • Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule

All these changes bring adverse reactions because of the excessive pressures and other demands coronavirus is bringing to our work and personal lives. These pressures contribute to higher levels of stress and long-term stress can lead to feelings of anxiety.

During this pandemic, it is critical that you recognise what stress looks like, take steps to build your resilience, manage job stress, and know where to go if you need help.

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another but there are usually six main areas of work that can affect stress levels and learning to manage these will help reduce your stress and anxiety

Being able to identify the areas that cause you the most stress will help you reduce your stress, be aware that stress in itself is not an illness but prolonged stress can lead to both physical and mental illness, so the earlier you recognise and do something about your stress levels the less impact it will have on you

women feeling stressed
Feeling stressed

Stress is not an illness, but it can make you ill.

We do not yet know exactly what the mental health impacts of COVID-19 are, but the return to work could bring these additional fears which could increase your work stress levels

  • The impact of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation on the work environment

  • Fear about contracting the virus from colleagues

  • Fears about job security

  • Fear of returning to the workplace

  • Fear of commuting on public transport

  • Maybe working longer or more irregular hours

  • Combining work with home-schooling and other family responsibilities, leading to a poor work-life balance.

  • Continued need to undertake a degree of homeworking

  • ·Working in more challenging environments

  • ·Fears of staying safe within the environment they are working in

Learn to recognise the physical effects of stress on yourself and do something about it before it makes you really ill.

Beware of work stress spilling over into other areas of your life.

It maybe you have got used to working remotely and will have developed strategies for optimising your wellbeing but will now have to adapt these.

So, as you return to work and the new changes you will face there are a few things to consider that may help you deal with the increased stress this may bring.

1. Consider the ways you can keep work relationships healthy

If you are continuing to work from home, keeping your work relationships alive is important it will therefore be helpful to keep in touch with your colleagues.

You may want to think of ways you can keep social contact, for example by having online coffee breaks or doing online social activities to talk about things outside of work.

If some of you are working from home and some are back to work this could change how you have to work or get tasks completed, consider what you need from a work perspective and ensure you keep a dialogue going with those who you need to connect with even if they are not in the office.

Try not to do everything yourself because others are not available, work out how tasks will get done within the limits of the available employers and keep people updated with what is going on.

Communicating will likely be more important now, as you may have to think of different channels of communication with your colleagues to keep the same level of communication you had previously.

Communicate with your manager about what these changes mean for you individually or as a team

It is a good idea to talk to your manager about your situation and how you are doing. They can help you work through problems, for example with managing your workload or working around childcare responsibilities.

·You and your manager may want to discuss changing your working pattern to suit your situation. For example, your manager may change your start and finish time.

·You can also let your manager know what kind of contact you would like. For example, talking over the phone or through video meetings or having online social events with your team.

Employers have a 'duty of care'. This means they must do all they reasonably can to support employees' health, safety, and wellbeing.

2. What thoughts are you having and how are you reacting to them?

Stress and worry can lead people to develop a mental filter in which they automatically interpret situations through a negative lens.

A person might jump to negative conclusions with little or no evidence (“my boss thinks I’m incompetent”) and doubt their ability to cope with stressors (“this can’t be done in this current environment”).

·Reconsider your negative thoughts, treat them as hypothetical instead of facts and consider other possibilities.

Act Rather Than React

"We experience stress when we feel that situations are out of our control,"

Not being in control can activate the stress hormone and, if you struggle long term to adapt it can reduce your confidence, concentration, and well-being.

identify the aspects of the situation you can control and aspects you cannot.

Generally you will be in control of your actions and responses, but not in control of others reactions, think about what you can do to have control and not concern yourself with the areas you have no control over, this is someone else’s responsivity not yours,

woemn having a relaxing massage
relaxing massage

3. Relaxation and Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment, with curiosity, openness, and acceptance.

Stress can be exacerbated when we spend time ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, or engaging in self-criticism.

  • Take some time in this current environment not to compare things as to how they were previously or worry that things are not going to be the same again,

  • Focus on what is happening now and how you can work with what you have,

Relaxation helps counter the physiological effects of the fight-or-flight response which stress can trigger.

For example, progressive muscle relaxation helps reduce muscle tension associated with anxiety.

When you feel your tension rising and feel the tension in your muscles, i.e. neck, back, headaches etc practice relaxing yourself, maybe just a 10 minute muscle relaxation at your desk to reduce the physical symptoms of stress Or practice some deep breathing exercises to calm you down

Take some time out when you are starting to feel stressed, go for a walk at lunch time, or find a colleague to speak with.

4 Is your Stress Self-Imposed?

Most of us go through the day pushing to get things done, we believe if we work the full eight to 10 hours, we will get more done.

Instead, productivity goes down, stress levels go up and you have very little energy left over for your family, scheduling breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch at your desk or do a breathing exercise will help you keep your stress levels down.

If we have intense concentration for about 90 minutes, followed by a brief period of recovery, we can clear the build-up of stress and rejuvenate ourselves.

Or try the The Pomodoro Technique a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for 'tomato', after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

Small bursts of work followed by a rest period keeps you more alert and less likely to fatigue.

Learn to stop self-imposing stress by not reaching out to others for help or trying to do everything yourself

Also stop worrying about others' perceptions of you, which you cannot control, you will get stressed about what others think of your work rather than focusing on what you are can do.

Workloads and expectations may have changed recently. Once you shift your focus from others' perception of your work to the work itself, you are probably more likely to impress them because you will get the work done instead of procrastinating about how to get the work done in someone else’s way that doesn’t work for you

5. Talk to Someone about any problems you are experiencing

Like all life problems, if you are struggling with your wok environment the work ethic the workload or anything else work related then talking to someone about things will help.

Talk to colleges and let them know what is going on for you, be honest with them ask for their help.

If you are struggling talk with your manager about the possibility of altering your hours of work, what your workload is or the timelines for your work.

Do not suffer in silence.

If you do not feel like talking to work colleagues, talk to friends and family or a counsellor.

Ensure you don’t keep things locked up inside yourself, share your troubles with someone to help reduce your stress

Laura Knight is a qualified and experienced Counsellor and a registered member of BACP (The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy)

She is an approved Anxiety UK Therapist and has her own private practice SeeClear Counselling, in Poole Dorset.

She can offer face to face, telephone and video counselling sessions

Laura also spent some time working with Dorset Mind delivering education to local employers on how to identify and manage stress at work reducing the impact that work stress can have on people's everyday lives.

Laura found that many of her clients would present with Anxiety and because of this enhanced her training to include CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as there is evidence to suggest that CBT is effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Laura now focuses on working with adults who struggle with Anxiety within her private practice, working with them to reduce the scary physical and emotional symptoms they experience and help them change their negative thinking patterns so they can lead a calmer life.

For more information about Laura please visit her website

Or visit her Facebook page

e-mail Tel 07975733029

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