National Stress Awareness Day falls on the first Wednesday of November and is a reminder to us all that stress is sometimes inevitable but it can be managed
Stress is a physical response to something happening to or around us. When we are stressed, our bodies feel like they are being attacked and switch to “fight or flight” mode.
This reaction stems from caveman era when danger from a predator would trigger stress which releases a cocktail of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body to either fight or run away. Blood rushes where it’s needed - to the muscles, and away from the unnecessary functions like digestion.
Stress is natural and isn’t always a bad thing. This increase in energy, faster breathing and increased heart rate when stressed helps us respond quickly to situations - like catching a falling child or slamming on the brakes when driving. In these situations you can see that stress is not a bad thing, if anything, it’s very necessary!
Stress only becomes a problem when it shows up in the wrong situations. When you’re stressed at work or home and your blood flow is prioritising your muscles, your brain isn’t able to function as normal. This explains the feeling of not being able to think straight and ending up being less productive, which can increase stress and the cycle goes on.
Stress can be harmful to your health over time as higher levels of cortisol increases blood sugar and blood pressure as well as decreasing libido. It has been shown to be a cause of anxiety and depression as well as insomnia and even heart disease.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation, found that 74% of adults in the UK experienced enough stress to feel overwhelmed or unable to cope, so it’s quite common. You can take a mini-quiz here to find out your stress levels!
Whilst you can experience stress in any job, in any industry, the constant evolution of technology means that tech roles often have demanding deliverables and high stakes. The global pandemic also increased stress in tech roles as many are trying to balance working from home and their personal lives. Forbes found 77% of tech leaders have even reported feeling more stressed at work as a result of the pandemic.
Un-checked stress can easily result in burnout, a form of exhaustion as a result of feeling constantly stressed. Burnout from work can have a knock-on effect in other areas of your life and leave you feeling demotivated, overwhelmed and emotionally drained.
If you’re feeling burnt out, you’re not alone. The tech workplace app Blind, conducted a survey where they asked ‘are you currently suffering from job burnout?’ and 57% answered yes.
Follow this link to find out your individual stress levels.
Burnout isn't what we want so let’s try not to get to that. Here’s how.
Manage your expectations for the day by making your to-do list realistic. Choose one or two key tasks for the day and leave room for unexpected tasks
If it’s outside of your current capacity, communicate this to your team. Avoid taking on more than you can handle. Doing this will help you prioritise your tasks and ultimately get more done to a higher standard
Working for hours at a time in front of a screen may sound like the best way to get maximum work done but it’s actually the opposite! Studies show that taking regular breaks to walk around, stretch, etc helps the mind refocus and reset and significantly reduces stress levels.
Constant notifications, emails and phone calls can disrupt your flow when trying to focus on a task. Try to delegate specific time windows to responding to emails and setting up contact hours so both you and those around you know when is best the get a hold of you (unless it’s an emergency, of course)
By now you’ve probably heard this term a million times, but what does that look like? Having things you enjoy doing when you’re not at work, having enough time to eat and sleep well, and not thinking about work when you’re at home
You don’t have to suffer in silence. Communicating with your team before things get out of control will make it easier and often faster to find a solution. A good work environment should support you to be able to carry out your workload in a way that isn’t detrimental to your mental or physical health