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Managing work stress before the holidays

The end of the year can be a stressful time at work. While there are usually many reasons for this, in many cases it’s because of time pressure and increased workload.

Projects may need to be finished by the end of the year. People may find themselves with extra responsibilities, like more time with clients or covering for colleagues on holiday. Or more work may need to be done to make up for lost holiday time.

In many industries, the start of the holiday season also marks the beginning of a very busy period. For example, out of the 750,000+ people who are employed in northern, central and western Melbourne, more than 71,000 are retail workers (with another 22,000 in wholesale) and 56,000 are in accommodation and food services (commonly referred to as hospitality work). Another 17,000 are in arts and entertainment.

The holiday season will see a surge in orders, bookings, customers and overall activity. With that may come added stress in the workplace.


Work stress and mental health

Just about every working person feels some kind of workplace stress at some point. It could be a tight deadline, the pressure of sales targets, or dealing with distressing situations. Normally, a bit of stress is seen as part of daily working life. However, for some people, work stress can be so intense that it affects their wellbeing. Symptoms can include anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggression or difficulty concentrating (there are many more).

The lead-up to the holidays is one time where this can happen. The intense feeling of being stressed can start to affect a person’s mental health.

Stress might also show as physical symptoms. Although symptoms will vary among individuals, common ones include muscle tension, headaches, insomnia (difficulty sleeping), stomach problems, sweats, and many more.


6 ways to deal with work stress before the holidays

It may feel like a case of “so much to do, so little time” during the busy pre-holiday period. Stressful situations are bound to happen. However, it’s how you deal with those situations that ultimately affects how you’re going to end up feeling. Here are some tips for de-stressing over the coming weeks.


1) Get your body moving

The mental health benefits of exercise are well known. Being physically active doesn’t mean you have to smash out bench presses or tear around the park during your lunch break. A quick walk around the block can help settle your mind if things seem like they’re getting too much. Do this as often as you can if you have the time. A few minutes away from the office desk or the counter can really help brighten your outlook.

It’s always worth reminding yourself that any exercise is always better than no exercise at all.


2) Get your mind going

Another great activity for stress relief is mindful activity like yoga, meditation and Tai Chi. While some people aren’t convinced, “don’t knock it until you try it”. A few minutes spent “elsewhere” in your mind can really help calm your outlook and make stressful situations more manageable.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to take up a lot of time or space. A simple controlled-breathing technique can help with stress management in the workplace.


3) Can you make the most of family and downtime?

Long working hours affect how much time you spend with the people you love. Instead of just flaking out on the couch in front of the TV or playing with your phone, how about spending some quality time with family or friends? It’s worth doing this even if there is limited time.

Understandably, this can feel like a tough ask during the busy pre-holiday period. However, after a tough day, you’ll probably feel a lot better after spending time with someone who is close to you.

The pre-holiday period is also a good time to revisit a hobby that you used to enjoy. It might feel exhausting, but getting back into something you once loved can help you keep your mind off your troubles and help you recharge.


4) Can those after-hours work emails wait?

Unless your job requires you to be on call, can you turn off (or not check) work email after hours?

Again, it could be a hard ask during the stressful pre-holiday period. However, if you’re able to do it, set clear boundaries for yourself and others, including during work hours. There is nothing wrong with making it clear when you’re in work mode and when you’re not. Having downtime, even at work, is a key part of dealing with stress.


5) Plan for sleep

One of the unfortunate effects of stress is the way we try to reward ourselves when it has passed. It is normal behaviour, for example, to want to zone out to Netflix after a stressful day. However, where things can get unstuck is when that brief reward goes on for several hours. Suddenly, it’s midnight and you’re still watching, despite an early start the next day.

We’re all guilty of staying up too late on a school night. However, making an effort to stick to a regular bed time — even after a stressful day — will help you get the quality sleep needed to better deal with the next day.

Similarly, going to bed with your mind still wired doesn’t lead to healthy sleep. Try to set yourself a switch-off time in the evening, after which you don’t use your devices. A good alternative is reading in bed. There’s a load of evidence that suggests it has many other benefits, from making you a better communicator to improving memory.


6) Talk about it

Recognising and successfully managing work stress starts with talking about the problem.

You might feel you don’t want to trouble others with your problems. However, talking it through with someone you trust can give you a new point of view. CAREinMIND professional counsellors are also trained to help people manage stressful situations.

The important thing is to not bottle it up. Letting pressure build until it reaches boiling point will only make your stress levels worse.


Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.


The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.