It’s official. Australia is suffering epidemic levels of stress, anxiety and depression, with over one third of workers worried about job security.
Medibio, the mental health technology group, conducted Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In. With data from 3,500 employees in 41 organisations, across a range of industries, the stats were alarming:
Mental illness rates have increased by more than 30% over the last decade.
It’s not surprising. With unprecedented economic pressure, intense competition, crazy work hours, threats of downsizing, slashed budgets and financial insecurity a permanent feature of our economy, everyone is under the pump to do more with less.
It’s all taking a toll.
Persistently high levels of stress, anxiety and depression impact mental health and physical wellbeing.
Some common effects of stress on your health include:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Reduced sex drive
- Gastro-intestinal problems
- Sleep deprivation
If left untreated, long-term stress, anxiety and depression may lead to a range of devastating effects including anger-management issues, social disengagement and demotivation. These may result in deteriorating relationships at home, in the workplace and in social circles. It can also lead to poor job performance and fatigue.
Many busy executives resort to consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, followed by sleeping aids at night. Others overeat, skip meals, or consume high-sugar foods for a quick energy boost. Exercise is often skipped due to lack of time or energy and sleep deprivation results in daily fatigue.
In worst case scenarios, some may even turn to substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs, as a coping mechanism.
Boost your mental and physical well-being with these 5 lifestyle changes – and help ensure you’re strong enough to face the challenges of the modern workplace:
- EXERCISE is your ENERGY!
Regular exercise boosts endorphin levels.
Endorphin hormones interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce perceptions of pain, trigger positive feelings in the body, and help counteract stress.
Regular exercise, at least 3 times per week, can increase your sense of being in control, boost self-esteem and help regulate emotions, so you can cope better with anxious feelings.
Studies have shown those who exercise regularly demonstrate improved leadership qualities, as judged by their bosses, peers and direct reports, compared with those who don’t exercise.
So, whether you like hitting the gym, doing laps in the pool, playing tennis with a friend, or going for a brisk walk in your local park, make sure you get out there and break a sweat – it will help you handle the stresses of work more effectively!
- SLEEP is your WEAPON!
Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship.
High stress levels can make sleeping more difficult and lead to sleep disorders.
Conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce the effects of stress.
Most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
If falling asleep is a challenge, first thing you should do is cut out stimulants, such as coffee, from mid-afternoon. You should also turn off televisions, computer screens and your mobile phone at least half an hour before bed time.
Try some meditation to wind down and put your mind at rest before heading to bed.
If you’re finding that you’re not feeling well-rested when you get up in the morning, consider having a sleep apnoea test. Snoring and obstructed breathing will lead to poor sleep and can have significant health ramifications such as raising your blood pressure, not to mention the impact on your partner!
- FOOD is your FUEL!
It’s easy to cut corners when it comes to food. But nourishing your body with the right fuel is crucial if you’re going to give yourself the energy you need to power through the day.
A large portion of the stress and anxiety we experience is caused by the foods we eat.
There is increasing evidence that the ketogenic diet, or keto, whereby we use fat for fuel instead of sugars or carbohydrates, can help improve our mental wellbeing. In a carbohydrate-fuelled state, we need to eat frequently to keep energy-levels up. If we don’t get the opportunity to eat frequently, then we may suffer depleted energy levels and lose mental focus. However, with keto, we can go longer without food because we are using the fat stored in our bodies for fuel.
According to US psychiatrist Doctor Georgia Ede, the decline in mental health around the world has a lot to do with the decline in the quality of our diet over the last 75 years.
Dr. Ede believes the two main driving factors for poor mental health are high consumption of refined carbohydrates and refined industrial oils, both of which promote inflammation and oxidation, to which many mental health disorders are also strongly linked.
Additionally, other potential culprits are grains and legumes, which not only interfere with absorption of brain-healthy nutrients but are also high in lectins and other factors that may pose risks to mental wellbeing.
Dr Ede suggests cutting out refined carbohydrates, refined oils, grains and legumes through a low-carb diet, may improve your mental health.
A low carb diet also has major physical benefits. With studies of senior executives showing that 79% of men and 62% of women have at least two major health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or too much body fat, adopting a keto diet may leave you both physically and mentally better off.
- COMMUNICATION is key to achieving CLARITY!
One important way to help reduce your stress, anxiety and depression levels is through effective communication.
By developing your communication skills and encouraging a culture of effective communication in the workplace, you can reduce stressful misunderstandings, incorrect assumptions being made, and avoid many costly errors.
Effective communication can also reduce resentments towards others in the workplace and mitigate aggressive or passive-aggressive tensions in relationships that may exist between colleagues.
It is crucial to understand that if communication is to be an effective tool in reducing workplace-induced stress and anxiety, you not only need to be able to express how you’re feeling to others (emotional expression), but you also need to be able to listen to how others are feeling (empathy).
In other words, you need to be open to new ideas, perspectives and take on other’s frame of reference.
By understanding what others are experiencing, and when they in turn have a better understanding of what you are experiencing, problems can be viewed in their proper perspective, thus alleviating tension, stress and anxiety.
This can help enhance the working atmosphere and could even lead to improved cooperation and productivity in the office. A positive working environment leads to improved co-operation amongst employees and increases productivity.
Moreover, national campaigns such as “R U OK?”, that promote empathic conversation, can change lives. Such campaigns, if adopted within workplaces, can open new doors for those experiencing stress and anxiety to meaningfully engage with colleagues.
In this way, peers, friends and co-workers can begin to understand their current headspace. Appropriate help can be sought when required. To succeed, a supportive culture of listening, without bias or judgement, needs to be cultivated so everyone feels their concerns are heard and taken seriously.
If implemented successfully, such an approach should lead to the right frame of mind, so those requiring assistance can be receptive to the help that’s on offer.
- SOCIALISATION is your SANITY!
When you’re dealing with urgent deadlines at work, taking time out to interact with others and have fun, can feel like an unnecessary waste of time.
However, the inclusion of fun activities in the workplace can be one of the best ways to relieve workplace stress.
Yes, we all know you’re a serious professional. But, letting your inner kid come out to play from time to time can do wonders for your mental health and ultimately improve your performance at work.
Dedicating even a small portion of your week to having fun can help you feel less overwhelmed by all that work-induced stress and anxiety. By including your co-workers in fun activities, you will increase camaraderie and enhance workplace-bonding, as well as improve levels of cooperation and teamwork.
Fun team-bonding activities could be as simple as heading to the local park for a game of soccer. Alternatively, closer work bonds can be achieved by putting the phones and social media aside for an hour, and actually engaging in meaningful talk with colleagues in an effort to genuinely get to know one another.
Having fun and laughing are great ways to lower stress levels and improve mental health.
How can Lifeology Help You?
With workplace related mental health issues such a major problem facing many Australian executives, it makes sense to address your stress and anxiety levels.
By remedying these problems, you will become more effective in the workplace.
But doing it alone isn’t always so easy.
Having someone to guide you through the best strategies to cope more effectively will ensure you reap the rewards you deserve.
At Lifeology, we have years of experience assisting people like you.
I have helped many people discover their true potential in both their working and personal lives.
Feel free to contact me to find out how.
For more information, contact Kerryn at firstname.lastname@example.org to unlock your potential today.