Stress in the workplace is increasing, according to a recent survey.
Linked closely to the cost of living crisis, the Acas survey of 100o people highlighted that 63% of employees – home and office workers – are feeling under pressure due to rising costs, making it more important than ever that we can spot the signs of stress to combat it quickly.
Registered nutritionist consultant at Nutrigums Shona Wilkinson said: “The right nutrition is key when creating a happier, healthier outlook, with vitamins and minerals an essential player in reducing mood fluctuations and improving our ability to focus.”
Here are some of her top tips for lowering stress.
Spot the signs
Whether looking to identify them for yourself or as an employer, colleague, friend or a family member, those suffering with mental fatigue often show several early warning signs:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Loss of appetite or a change in eating habits
- Lack of productivity or negative mindset
- Disorganisation or issues with time
- Feelings of anxiety or worry
- Heightened sensitivity or irritability
Make time to talk
As an individual looking out for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to discuss the issues you may have or that you notice in others. Simply checking in or asking to talk is an important first step in combating stress and burnout, by allowing someone else to lend an ear.
As an employer, creating an open dialogue and having in-person conversations lets people know there is a safe space to talk. By offering flexibility in working schedules where possible, it helps to acknowledge that not everyone works in the same way and gives people time to address personal needs, such as a parenting commitments.
Workplaces can also consider giving access to relevant tools and resources that can assist with wellbeing. There are a multitude of paid programmes such as Care Coins, but there are also free tools you can access. Charity websites such as Mind and The Sleep Charity provide helpful guides and helplines that can be used on a daily basis.
Eat a balanced diet
What we eat is linked to our overall health, and even our sleep can be affected if we aren’t eating correctly – potentially leading to long-lasting effects of burnout and fatigue. Nutritional deficiencies are often associated with challenges such as brain fog, too, so it is important to look at mood-boosting and brain-enhancing foods.
Here are some essential vitamins you should look to include (more details below):
- Omega-3: Fatty fish such as salmon and trout are a rich source in Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Magnesium: Necessary for energy production, nerve function and blood pressure regulation, and found in beans, seeds and spinach.
- Vitamin C: Works as a neuromodulator, helping your cells to use important neurological chemicals like dopamine.
- B Vitamins & Iron: Those with an iron deficiency can suffer symptoms of brain fog. This is because we need iron to transport oxygen to the body and brain.
- Antioxidants: Substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radical attack on brain cells can cause confusion and memory loss.
- Turmeric: A spice hailed for its antioxidant properties and acts as an anti-inflammatory, benefiting the brain in a number of ways. A supplement high in brain-boosting ingredients can help.
Micro-breaks and boundaries
Rather than thinking of all the things on your ‘to do’ list, try to focus on three key tasks to complete one day at a time and leave room for micro-breaks away from your desk. These simple breaks can help your brain to refocus and reset. Try engaging the senses during these breaks, too; what can you see, smell, or hear? This helps you to become present in the moment, bringing a feeling of calm and helping concentration.
With working from home much more common now, it is easy to keep working or checking in on tasks out of hours. By setting yourself boundaries around your schedules, this allows for a proper break; remove work WhatsApp messages and emails off your personal phone, and set out automatic replies for while you’re on annual leave. When the time comes to stop working, it is important to step away from the desk completely and allow yourself to fully shut down when working hours are up.
Focus on the positive
Positive mindsets are sometimes hard to find when you’ve been stuck in a negative cycle for a while, but you can turn stressor situations on their head. Our perspective is often skewed when we suffer from brain fog, so try writing down three positive things from each day and use this time as a period of reflection on seemingly negative situations.
Ask yourself: How did you effectively overcome a situation? Did you learn something new? Did you meet a deadline? This thought process can expand and deepen our understanding of a situation which could sometimes be a trigger to stress, helping us to think more positively in the long term.
Vitamins and Minerals
VitaminOmega-3: Our brains use omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, with our brains made of around 60% fat. Omega-3s are essential for learning and memory and is a proven mood booster.
Magnesium: Low magnesium levels can be linked with neurological diseases such as migraines and depression.
Vitamin C: Assists with neuronal maturation; a process of maintaining and producing healthy brain cells. Similar to antioxidants, Vitamin C helps to protect the nervous system tissue and cells from damage caused by free radicals and helps reduce brain inflammation, which can be the cause of headaches. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the production of oxygenated blood cells helping to guard against mental fatigue.
B Vitamins & Iron: An over-the-counter vegan supplement is a good way to boost your iron and B vitamin levels particularly if you follow a plant-based diet. Pair this with foods rich in B vitamins such as peanuts, soybeans, oats, bananas, chickpeas and leafy greens to help boost the production of neurotransmitters – chemicals that deliver messages between neurons in the brain and body.
Antioxidants: The brain uses a huge amount of oxygen due to its high metabolic activity, which means the brain is more susceptible to free radical attack than other areas of the body.
Free radical attack on brain cells can cause confusion and memory loss, therefore it is imperative to get antioxidants into your diet.
Turmeric: Its active ingredient, curcumin, boosts brain cell growth hormones, encourages serotonin and dopamine (mood enhancing hormones) and even benefits memory.