On Workplace Wellbeing Day, we continue our series with Dr Margaret O’ Rourke, Clinical Director and board member Ag Eisteacht and founder of the LifeMatters Academy, to share some positive insight into coping with stress at work. The LifeMatters Academy is a virtual institute that actively promotes health, wellbeing and resilience using evidence-based well-being and performance programs that have been designed to help manage stress, prevent burnout and keep people well.
Stress can be real or imagined – and it is personally defined. If stress is left unchecked or is poorly managed, it can lead to a wide range of bio-psychosocial and behavioural issues.
Stress is defined as being functional or dysfunctional.
Functional stress is associated with high energy, motivation, mental alertness, clear communication and calmness under pressure.
Dysfunctional stress occurs when we perceive that the pressures or demands we experience over- stretch or exceed our resources to cope. When dysfunctional stress becomes chronic and unmanaged, this can lead to fatigue, irritability, poor performance, illness, absenteeism and even burnout.
Looking after the basics can buffer us during stressful times at work.
Pause and take a few deep breaths during your working day. No matter how brief these pauses are, they will help to pace you through the day.
The OHIO rule
Only Handle it Once: Identify the tasks and the work-flow for the day. Check for opportunities to prioritise and complete the task there and then – do not revisit tasks. You have too much to do.
Being always available can lead to fatigue, lower concentration levels and even errors so try to frame your time within boundaries for your own wellbeing.
Shakespeare’s line is so true: “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care”. Sleep is essential to health so try to ensure that you create and maintain a reasonable work/rest/ sleep cycle. WHO recommends getting between 7-9 hours’ sleep every 24 hours.
Taking reflective time to think about our own thoughts and feelings can help us to regulate ourselves and avoid the emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue caused by stress.
Self-care involves cultivating habits, skills and behaviours to sustain wellbeing and build resilience for work and for life. Eating healthily, factoring exercise into our day and nurturing interests outside of work can all help to balance the impact of stress.
Top tips for self-care (LifeMatters 2020)