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Stressed at work? Mental workouts will help

Work-related stress is a growing issue in Australia, affecting approximately 21 per cent of people who are taking time off work each year because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. Mental workouts can help, says a doctor specialising in self-awareness, meditation and emotional intelligence.

Dr Farvardin Daliri, who is also the executive director of the Townsville Intercultural Centre, said one way in which workers can set themselves up for less stress this year is to protect their mental wellbeing. 

"Learning some simple techniques for taking back control of your own thoughts and shifting your mindset will empower people to manage stress levels better," he said. 

"Our world and our lives have gotten busier and busier, and people try to project happiness to external events and conditions out of their control – including their success and ability at work. We keep doing the same things that we believe will give us happiness, hoping for a better day without realising that we need to change ourselves and our mindset." 

"Something within us, within our own minds, needs to change to take back the control over our thoughts and help us cope with stress in the workplace."

Work stress doesn't just come at a cost to the individual, of course – it is estimated (according to research from PriceWaterhouseCoopers) that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year through absenteeism ($6.1 billion), "presenteeism" â€“ where an employee is present at work but underperforming due to injury or illness – and compensation claims ($146 billion). 

And some occupations are more likely to induce stress than others. 

According to Safe Work Australia, the occupations with the highest rate of claims for mental health conditions were: defence force members, fire fighters and police, automobile, bus and rail drivers, health and welfare support workers, prison and security officers, and social and welfare professionals. 

Sadly, the cultures within some of these occupations may not be encouraging of workers seeking support for a mental health issue and possible challenges they face in the workplace, Dr Daliri noted. 

"Workplaces might offer assistance, but workers don't feel comfortable or confident in taking up those programs for fear they might be looked upon poorly," he said.

"Mental health problems are often seen as weakness and people won't always take steps to arm themselves with strategies to cope with their issues. I encourage anybody who is already feeling stressed from work to take steps to improve their working life." 

"So much of our mental health is about taking back control of our thoughts and we have the ability to consciously refocus our minds on pleasant thoughts after the intense pressure of dealing with emotionally charged situations so that we can better cope with pressure and stress at work," he concluded.