Far too many Australians are stressed at work and it’s taking a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), one in five workers suffers from some form of mental illness whether that be depression, anxiety, stress disorders or suicidal thoughts.
Untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion every year. The importance of easing this stress and anxiety is clear. But is the solution as simple as cutting down on work?
Shannah Kennedy, life coach, corporate speaker, author and co-creator of the Master Class of Wellness, a program that empowers professionals to reach their highest potential, says you can have a successful career and achieve a happy, balanced life without giving up your work.
“We’re taking our work with us everywhere we go these days. Work-life balance isn’t about having lots of time off work, it’s about blending our work and recreation to where we feel we have a sense of control over our health – mentally, physically and emotionally,” she says.
Kennedy says we are often to blame for pushing ourselves too hard. One way we do this is that we don’t set clear boundaries on how we use technology and there is often no separation between our work life and our personal life.
“Checking phones next to our beds, checking our emails constantly affects the neural pathways for addiction. So people aren’t sleeping properly, they are overwhelmed by information and there is no off switch,” she says.
Set clear technology boundaries between your work and personal life
The inability to say no to people’s requests when we really should be looking after our own interests is another contributing factor. We quite often put others’ interests ahead of our own trying to be the best family member, employee, or friend that we can be. Kennedy calls this the ‘disease to please’ and it’s a habit that has to be broken if we are going to find a better work-life balance.
Many people may not even be aware that they are stressed, caught up in what Kennedy calls the ‘treadmill of life’. Telltale signs include sleep apnoea, overreacting to situations and having thoughts that replay in your head constantly. You may also find that you’re not really present in your relationships, may have high blood pressure or have trouble tasting your food.
Those close to retirement age can be particularly at risk of stress and anxiety as they often haven’t prepared for life beyond work and find themselves having to contemplate starting all over again. “Many have forgotten to work on their friendships and hobbies and have to start from scratch when they retire,” says Kennedy.
Life coaches Shannah and Lyndall share their tips for achieving that work-life balance we all long for
But by managing your workplace stress you can become more productive at work and a healthier, happier and more inspired version of yourself. Follow these key strategies to begin your transformation.
How to find a better work-life balance
Learn to say “No”
“We fear rejection and we fear missing out, but it’s important to realise that you can’t do everything without it having a detrimental effect on you,” says Kennedy. But how can you say no without offending people? Kennedy says it’s about being nice first. “Thank the person for their invitation and then say ‘unfortunately I can’t make it this time’. Use the time to do something that helps you rest and rejuvenate instead,” advises Kennedy.
Have a plan and track your time
Track your time with a timetable and include work but also activities such as yoga, meditation and social catch ups that improve your mind, body, hobbies and relationships. You should schedule this time in the same as you would important business meetings, advises Kennedy. “Book in the asset first. You are that asset in life and it’s about protecting that asset and booking time out to work on and with that asset,” says Kennedy.
Have technology boundaries
Don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed and incorporate technology blackout periods into your day. Not checking your work emails will make you feel calmer, but you will also find you become more productive, free from distractions like social media. “From 8pm at night in my house, it’s phones and tablets switched off. Similarly, phones and devices are kept off until after exercise and breakfast and that gives us time to switch off too,” says Kennedy.
Move your body
Exercise is a perfect stress release and has the added benefit of keeping us fit, healthy and reenergised. Instead of coming home from work and having more ‘screen time’, invest in your body by going for a walk or taking an exercise class. You will feel more refreshed when you do have to tackle those stressful work deadlines.
Kennedy calls this her big secret that allows her to perform better and without stress in her working life. “Most of the population use only 30 per cent of their lung capacity. They are not maximising the oxygen intake into their bodies and their brains so they can’t think; they can’t make decisions,” she says. To reap the benefits of life-giving oxygen take five deep breaths three times a day. “You can change your whole mental state if you learn how to breathe properly,” says Kennedy.
Deep breathing exercises can help improve your overall wellbeing
Use technology to help you
Don’t be a slave to technology. “Make it your slave and become more productive,” says Kennedy. Program your phone’s calendar with things that are non-negotiable to you and set your phone to notify you when you should be doing them. “That means my yoga, my walk, my friend time, my finances. When you get a notification to do your finances for example, you know you can’t go to bed until you finish them,” Kennedy says.
See a life coach
Bring some extra help into your life by finding a life coach. “A qualified life coach can help educate you about how to better manage your work-life balance and then help you create the structure you need to be the best version of yourself by helping you improve your health, wellbeing, your family life and career,” says Kennedy.
What are your top wellness tips?