Stress at work? Take a break from it and engage with life

Divorce. It’s the word that spells doom for a relationship. So when a couple, both with high-powered jobs, sought consultation before going ahead with their decision to part ways, I saw it as a ray of hope; they were still looking for a way to salvage what they had nurtured. Talking to them I noticed signs that they were suffering from stress rather than fundamental `relationship’ problems. Their work-life had eaten into their personal lives and was affecting them mentally.

Work and all its attendant stresses have gradually encroached on our personal space. Inevitable, most would say, considering that now we even take work to bed, thanks to the smartphone! Consequently, complaints related to stress and depression have increased.So the big question is, what can we do to develop a healthy work-life balance.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community“.

The most common mental-wellness issues are stress and depression. Stress, scientifically speaking, occurs when an organism responds to any stimulus that disturbs its equilibrium. The body’s stress response is designed to increase performance and situational awareness, allowing us to successfully tackle the said stimulus. Until the stress becomes chronic, which is when it leads to physical and psychological problems. Studies suggest stress is the underlying trigger for over 75% cases of physical illnesses.

It can cause irritability, impair concentration, weaken immune systems and trigger illnesses, such as common cold, backache, diabetes, and even heart disease. Stress at the workplace is usually associated with excessive work, pressure from seniors, deadli ne demands, work-family conflicts and performance-related worries.

Assocham (Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India) reported that 42.5% of corporate employees across major cities in India suffer from depression or generalized anxiety brought on by challenges at work.

Depression is, in fact, the leading cause of illness and disability worldwide, according to latest WHO estimates. Symptoms include diminished interest, social withdrawal, insomnia, concentration problems, indecisiveness, unexplained aches and low energy .These could cause a sudden and drastic drop in work performance and heightened emotional displays.

Recharge those batteries. Recognizing and understanding the problem is the first step to recovery. Fortunately, stress can be dealt with; it can be alleviated through teamwork and by working to achieve realistic targets. Employees in workplaces that offer short breaks and fitness rooms to their staff tend to experience less stress. Holidays also help to relax the mind and body .

Conversely, it’s equally important not to overthink or overanalyze mental health. In its mild form, depression can be treated with lifestyle changes, including exercise. At the very least, we can talk about our problems with those close to us or to a professional.Other solutions are medication, counselling or newer treatments.

The important thing, though, is an optimum work-life balance. Completely disengage from work when you’re done for the day.Excessively long working hours can damage one’s professional and personal relationships.

And we must not let our lives revolve around only work.The next time that smartphone pings in the middle of a family dinner, just remember your work will be there 10 minutes later too. Take a break.