The busy or peak season in many industries can be a challenging time. Increased workloads, tight deadlines, and high expectations can contribute to elevated stress levels, potentially affecting both individual wellbeing and organisational performance.

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Whether you work in an industry that regularly involves long and intense hours, or you’re just experiencing a particularly busy period, stress from overwork can have significant consequences in the short and long term. Stress can impact your ability to make decisions, fuel increased anger and irritability, and impact sleep quality. Stress can also affect your physical health, making you more susceptible to colds and flu, or more serious illness, such as heart disease.

At times like these, finding the energy to do your best work and take time for yourself can feel like a marathon, and you might even feel guilty for struggling. While a degree of stress can be positive factor for boosting productivity, it’s important to adopt effective coping strategies when stress from busy or peak periods is too much.

When is stress too much stress?

Workplace stress refers to the negative response individuals experience when faced with excessive pressures or demands at work. This stress is amplified when individuals perceive a lack of resources, whether physical, financial, practical, or emotional, to effectively cope with these demands.

It is crucial to differentiate between pressure and stress. Healthy levels of pressure are necessary in work environments, as they present challenges that prompt you to make quick decisions or meet deadlines. While pressure can induce some degree of stress, it becomes detrimental to health when these pressures become overwhelming or persist for prolonged periods.

Workplace stress can stem from various factors within the office environment, but it can also be influenced by non-work-related issues. Some primary causes include:

  1. Workloads and volume of work: Excessive workload and overwhelming tasks can lead to heightened stress levels.
  2. Relationship or family issues: Challenges in personal relationships or family matters can significantly impact your wellbeing and contribute to workplace stress.
  3. Management style: Poor leadership, lack of support, and ineffective communication from managers can create a stressful work environment.
  4. Personal illness or health issues: Physical or mental health problems can intensify stress levels and hinder your ability to cope with work demands.
  5. New work-related demands or challenges: Transitions such as adapting to hybrid working arrangements or facing unfamiliar work challenges can generate additional stress.
  6. Poor work-life balance: When you struggle to find equilibrium between work responsibilities and personal life, stress can escalate.

How to cope with stress during these periods

Dealing with high levels of stress depends on what’s causing it. While both employers and employees can take proactive steps to manage organisational stress during busy times – such as managing workloads and communicating when problems arise – there are a number of practical and personal strategies you can implement to survive and thrive.

Personal strategies

Taking proactive steps at a personal level can not only help alleviate stress but also equip you with valuable tools to navigate future challenging periods effectively.

  1. Identify your stress triggers: Engage in self-reflection to identify specific factors that induce stress in your life. This helps you to recognise patterns and address the root causes of stress more effectively when busy periods arise.
  2. Alternate hard and easy tasks: You work hard, so it makes sense to reward yourself. For instance, if you’ve just completed an important project, take a time on less taxing tasks to give yourself a breather. This helps you pace yourself during your workday, ensuring you get regular breaks to prepare you.
  3. Explore coping techniques: Since everyone responds to stress differently, it’s crucial to discover coping strategies that work best for you. If a particular approach doesn’t yield desired results, don’t be discouraged. Be open to trying alternative techniques that may be more effective in reducing your stress levels.
  4. Try mindfulness practices: Engaging in mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation, cultivates present-moment awareness and can provide a sense of calm amidst stressful situations. By focusing on the here and now, you can foster a greater sense of resilience.
  5. Prioritise your physical wellbeing: Stress can impact your dietary choices, so it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet that provides the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. Complement this with regular physical activity tailored to your preferences, whether it’s jogging, yoga, or chair-based exercises. Finding an exercise routine that suits you contributes to your overall wellbeing.
  6. Keep doing the things you love: Make space in your life for your passions. Doing those things you enjoy will help your brain release dopamine, which will energise you to get through the hard tasks.

Practical strategies

While personal strategies may be helpful to destress, it may also be beneficial to look at the root cause of your workplace stressors, especially if long-term changes need to be made.

  1. Look at your workload: If your workload is a major cause of stress, have a conversation with your manager. It may help to have a constructive conversation with your colleagues or managers to establish realistic targets and identify solutions for the challenges you’re facing. To that end, consider enhancing your time management skills. For example, if you’re juggling too many tasks, it may be more difficult to complete each in time. It’s easy to put pressure on ourselves when we’re under the pump, which is why it’s important to work within your limitations and ask for help if needed.
  2. Work on your work-life balance: Now more than ever, it’s difficult to find the right work-life balance, but drawing a line between work and the rest of your life is imperative for good mental and physical health.
  3. Look for support: If you don’t feel the above steps yield results, you could consider speaking to HR or your EAP. This is where a network of trusted colleagues can be beneficial to provide sound advice.

In some cases, you may have access to an employee assistance program (EAP) without realising it. Your EAP can offer you free advice and counselling to not only deal with your stress but set up strategies to help you deal with future issues. Contact our friendly team on 1300 687 327 or through the Converge App to get in contact with a mental health professional.