Both law and recruitment are considered a highly stressful occupations in which to work. As we conclude Stress Awareness Month, the Ardent team shares our top tips for reducing stress in our working days.
Taking a break
Kat Jones: I love a podcast and recently listened to an interview with a mental health expert who was giving advice on how you can be most productive during your day. My top take away was to take regular breaks, stopping for a cup of tea, quick walk around the block etc., and to stop using breaks as rewards! The expert suggested, rather than rewarding yourself with a break after completing a difficult task to take the break first and come to the task fresh, destressed and with a positive mind set.
After a lifetime of working in recruitment I’ve tended to do the reverse and reward myself after difficult tasks, but I have tried to remember this advice when I am building up to a complicated or tricky/stress inducing piece of work. I am pleased to say it has had positive results. I use the break to think through the piece of work and how I am going to approach it making the whole thing seem easier and less stressful. I’m then ready for the next break!
Looking after yourself
Jane Gaunt: Being a legal recruiter/ head-hunter is a never-ending job! It can often lead to you feeling like you have not achieved enough during the course of a day or that you are always “switched on” throughout the week.
During the week it can be difficult to balance the demands of working life with a busy personal life and there are often times when days have gone by when you realise that you haven’t taken anytime out for yourself. This can often be compounded by home working when you don’t get the breaks that you get by commuting to the office or nipping out with a colleague for a coffee. Making time to do one small thing each day to focus on your own well-being is something that I try to practice. This can be anything from taking a short walk, going for a run, practising yoga or meditation, or simply enjoying 15 minutes away from technology.
I find I am much more productive, and calmer, if I am focussing on eating well, exercising regularly and generally looking after myself physically and mentally. Sometimes things slip and life takes over. When this happens it can be hard to regain control and get back to good habits. In this scenario I remind myself that it’s mind over matter and taking that first step (which is often the hardest) to know that the outcome will be worth it.
Podcasts and a walk
Matt Parsons: There’s a coffee shop around a thirty minute walk from home and I try to make the effort every other day. It’s a really quiet route through the fields and I tend to listen to audiobooks or podcasts en route. The Guardian Football Weekly is my go-to pod, but I’m often chuckling along to any of the Partridge audiobooks. I’ll also often use this time to catch up with my parents on the phone, which always takes my mind off the stresses of the day.
Three good things and deep working
Jon Kennedy: Sometimes we start the day with an unrealistic to-do list, and as a result we often finish the day wishing we’d got more done, dwelling on the unfinished items amongst the unwieldy workload with which we tasked ourselves. A simple yet effective way to finish the day feeling more of a sense of achievement is to set a couple of minutes aside to reflect on “three good things” that were accomplished that day.
Advanced technology and social media have led to us being more distracted than ever before when working. Every audio and visual messages and alerts from our devices, however unimportant or non-urgent, can occupy our mind and frustrate our progress on tasks. It’s helpful to choose set times each day for “deep working”, switching off all non-essential reminders, in order to make headway on the most important tasks and feel productive.
Managing the to do lists
Gerry Arbuckle: I find that thinking about what I must do causes me more stress than actually doing it, particularly when I’m looking at a long list of personal and work tasks. So, every morning I write 2 lists – one for personal and one for work. Next to each task I write an estimate of how long it will take and this reassures me that it’s all doable. I also like to have the radio on in the background when I’m working and not on the phone.
When I’m trying to get away from work I like to listen to audiobooks – thrillers usually. Even better if the weather’s nice and I can sit in the garden to listen.
At least once every month to 6 weeks I get away to the coast. A walk by the sea really sees off any remaining stress. If the weather is too bad though, cuddling up with the kids and watching a film is always a winner.
Take a step back
Phil Kennedy: If I am beginning to feel stress building and my day get away from me, I find it best to take a step back, clear my head and go for a brief walk, preferably to a favourite coffee shop. On a practical basis, I find it really helps to review my to do list and re-prioritise it if necessary. This usually puts in perspective what I need to do is achievable and helps dissipate the stress.
For more tips on handling stress at work, visit the resources compiled by LawCare.