A conversation with yourself: Stress in the workplace

Whether you think you’re stressed or not, it is inevitable that at some point in your life, you have or  will experience stress. Stress is an experience of heightened physiological and psychological arousal that results from encountering challenges that we believe are beyond our ability to cope. Stress is most often nothing to worry about, in fact in some instances it can be positive, giving us enough energy before a big race, exam or promotion. However, if we don’t effectively identify what is stressing us out, and address it, it could become much more serious and cause us to become sick or develop a mental health problem. Whether you’ve just entered the workforce or have plenty of experience, or if you’re simply interested in how to reduce stress when in similar situations, we’ve got you covered. Read below for self-talk suggestions when you check in with yourself and your feelings. Ideally, you should check in once every week, but this is no hard-and-fast rule and will be different for each person- it could be at the end of every day or just whenever you feel it might be necessary.

Let’s have a conversation about stress at work 

 Hey me, how have I been feeling?

Great, nothing at all is going wrong!

If truthful this response is amazing, however it is sometimes important to dig deeper and reflect more thoroughly, as most often we may be burying our true feelings if we perceive them as too tough or complex to address them firsthand. This is completely normal and very common. As such, it may be important to ask yourself a second time, as follows.

Okay, but how am I really doing? Have I felt ‘off’ recently at all?

Come to think of it, I have been feeling a little sad lately, but I didn’t think much of it, and didn’t think it was serious at all.

Has anything significant happened at work during the last 2-3 weeks that I can think of? 

Here it may be beneficial to make a list. If you’re not sure if something is important or not, add it anyway and give it the benefit of the doubt! An example is shown below

  • My boss Sarah got annoyed at me for forgetting a deadline 
  • I had too much work to do 
  • I had to work by myself on one day 
  • I haven’t seen any of my work friends recently 
  • I’ve come to dread leaving for work 
  • I got annoyed easily by customers 
  • My friend surprised me at work 

Which of these situations are negative, or have stressed, saddened or frustrated me? Which of them are positive, or have made me happy and motivated? 

My friend surprising me was positive. The rest were all negative.

How did I feel when my boss Sarah was annoyed at me?

It made me feel like I had failed at my job. It made me nervous that my boss might not like me, and that I might get fired.

Do I think these thoughts were true? If not, what might have been a more truthful reaction?

No, these were not true. I only spoke out of fear and shock at what happened. Sarah has probably moved on from what happened, and I should too. A more truthful reaction to what happened would be to understand that I am human and I am allowed to make mistakes. It doesn’t make me bad at my job or mean my boss doesn't like me. I should not dwell on it, as nothing will come of it. If I am still worried, I should talk to Sarah about it and let her know. 

It is important to repeat the above two questions with yourself for every situation you identified as negative, and critically break down the scenario, identify your negative self-talk, and replace them with more positive and helpful thoughts.

Would I benefit from talking to someone about what has been happening? Do I know where to find help if I need it?

I guess it might help me to talk to someone about how I’ve been feeling. Perhaps I could have an honest chat with a friend, adult or parent that I trust. Or maybe I could even talk to Sarah about how I’ve been feeling at work. She might have some suggestions for me on how to deal with pressure at work from experience. There may be facilities in place within my workplace to support me and my mental health, such as a wellbeing coordinator, psychologist or counsellor. Perhaps I could set up an appointment to meet with them. If not, I could always contact my local GP, who will be able refer me to a psychologist or counsellor. Talking to someone else about my feelings would be helpful, because it helps me address my concerns with a more positive attitude, rather than just dwelling on them by myself, which could end up being harmful. 

It is always important to know that how you are feeling is valid. If you feel upset, stressed or uncomfortable at work, you are always recommended to talk to someone about it. Talking, whether it be with a trusted adult, GP, psychologist or employee, can help address the situation, reduce your negative feelings and help make changes to better support you at work.

You should never be made to feel ashamed of your feelings- seeking help and support earlier on can prevent later illness or worry. So, don’t be ashamed to share and seek help about your feelings!