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Stress at work

Imagine reaching Christmas Eve, energised, organised, and relaxed.

What would have to happen in the days, hours and minutes prior for this to be reality?

Do we have that much power to change our future?

In the UK, 59% of people identify work as their most common cause of stress.

As we near the holidays, this only increases, as deadlines close in and extra tasks pile up. Last-minute meetings seem to fill every minute of the day. With so many loose ends to tie up, no wonder we feel the pressure!


What control do we have over our future and how can we chose to make our future different?

Let’s take myself as an example. All day I’m juggling tasks. I have work piling up, emails to answer, materials to deliver, etc. I can’t even have lunch without a barrage of texts, emails, and calls. It feels like running on a hamster wheel. The momentum keeps me going, but what happens when I stop? Will I get a chance to relax and be present or will I simply be too tired and keep thinking about my busy day?  By week’s end, my energy and focus will be low, and my stress levels will be through the roof. I can’t even imagine how I will feel come December 24th!


Taking a few steps to organise and plan can makes a huge difference. I start my day by writing down my three most important tasks; the ones I must finish. Then, I focus on the kind of person I want to be that day. Should I be unyieldingly productive? Or do I need to allow myself to recharge? What if I (shock horror!) put my phone on silent whilst I write? Blocking time for specific tasks allows for full focus and helps keep my boundaries, which are paramount to both short-term and longer-term goals.


Creating boundaries are essential. Ensuring that we have time to ourselves, even just to eat, is integral to mental health, focus and productivity. And if we can add three minutes of mindfulness or a quick walk outdoors? Even better! Taking time to recharge is just as important as getting everything done. If we wear ourselves out, the latter becomes impossible. It sounds counter-intuitive, but “me time” is a key to stress management.


It’s easy to jump at a distraction, but doing so is counterproductive. It takes away focus from the task at hand and leads to reactionary solutions. Permitting ourselves the time and space to step back and pause before reacting allows us to choose our next move consciously. Otherwise, we spread ourselves too thin, leading to poor decisions, rushed projects, and low-quality work. How can we expect to get everything done if we aren’t running at full capacity? It’s impossible to drive from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and back on £5 of diesel, so why do we think we can work all day without stopping to refuel and refuel?


Here’s an exercise to interrupt the habits of jumping on the ‘hamster wheel’ and going into auto-pilot. This can be done at any time, whether you’re sitting at your desk, in a meeting, working on projects, etc. Next time you find yourself with too much on your plate, think SOS!


S – Stand Back:  In your own mind, create space for yourself to pause.

O – Observe:  Recognise, without judgement, what you are feeling, thinking, and how you are behaving. Are you running on autopilot, just reacting? Or are you really engaging and being present?

S – Steer:  Steer in the direction you want. Don’t just make a snap decision, but really consider the results you want and make the choice to drive you focus in that direction.


We can train our brains! Like lifting weights, the more we do it, the easier it becomes the more the muscle becomes defined and the muscle gets stronger. Each time we choose to pause before making a decision, it becomes more natural. By repeating it, it becomes habit, leading to a healthier, happier, more balanced day. We therefore get the results we need, while being the person we want to be, empowering ourselves by giving ourselves choice consistently throughout the day.


I have printed out a copy of SOS, so I can practice it every single day. Now, it is so ingrained in my mind, it has become a natural habit!


Let’s choose how we want to feel this Christmas Eve! With the right tools, we have the power to ease our own stress and make these next few weeks breeze by. Just remember to step back and SOS!


If you are suffering from the effects of stress or are concerned about your health please talk to your GP or contact us for information on how our services can support you through stress and anxiety. enquiries@direction.org.uk

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