workload anxiety

wicked workloads

it’s normal (and helpful) to experience stress

At work, we generally understand that temporary peaks in our workload may occur. We might initially be open to working longer hours, skipping breaks, or sacrificing personal time in order to meet these temporary peaks in workload. When these temporary peaks in workload occur, we may experience a stress response to help us to respond to the demands of the situation. Stress is our body’s way of providing us with additional resources to get the job done. This is normal and in these situations stress can be helpful by providing us with the boost we need to meet the demands of the situation.

thinking about stress

Not all stress is bad for us. Research into the negative effects of stress shows that how we think about stress matters. When we perceive stress as a negative experience, we are more likely to experience the negative effects associated with stress. These negative effects may include: aches and pains, reduced immune functioning, or becoming easily overwhelmed. Conversely, if we perceive stress as a positive, performance enhancing force we are more likely to experience stress as a positive experience. A positive response to stress may help us to become more focused, feel more energised, and to process information faster.

chronic stress may lead to anxiety

What happens when a temporary increase in workload becomes more permanent? Ongoing excessive workloads may lead to feelings of anxiety. Continuing to work longer hours, skipping breaks and sacrificing personal time no longer becomes sustainable. Those who continue to sacrifice these things, may be at risk of developing anxiety. Some signs that stress has developed into anxiety are:

  • Being unable to switch off from work
  • Not feeling refreshed despite having time away from work
  • Constantly feeling on edge, keyed up or experiencing a sense of dread
  • Difficulties concentrating, focusing or making decisions
  • Becoming short or irritable with colleagues or family members
  • Difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or not waking up refreshed
  • Muscle tension or headaches

4 tips to manage stress at work

  • Communicate assertively with your manager. It may be helpful to communicate that current workloads are unsustainable and having a negative impact. In this conversation providing suggestions about ways to reduce the workload may be seen as proactive by managers. Seeking clarity about which pieces of work are top priority and which ones can be handled later may also help to manage workloads.
  • Set healthy boundaries and re-engage in activities which are calming or relaxing. In order to maintain optimum performance at work, it is important to engage in self-care activities such as taking a lunch break, engaging in exercise and spending time with family. Engaging in calming and relaxing activities may be helpful to soothe the nervous system and manage stress.
  • Reframe self-care activities as an investment in performance rather than as a cost. It is common to think of breaks as a cost to performance. After all, every minute spent taking a break is a minute of lost productive time. It may be helpful to remember that in order to perform at optimal levels, our brains need time relax and switch off. Therefore, taking a break is an investment in peak performance… not a cost!
  • Reflect on the positive benefits provided by stress. The stress response is our body’s way of providing us with additional resources to perform at work. Accepting this process as normal and even performance enhancing may help us to change our relationship with stress.

If you require support to manage Workplace Stress or Anxiety, contact Uplift Psychology today.

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