You’re stressed at work, but won’t take the time to do something about it?

Young man suffering stress at work

When Camille Pierson looks back, she realises how awful her working life had been at one point in her life. “Very toxic, very fast-paced. Stress was commonplace and we worked incredibly long hours. The environment was horrendous and I wasn’t really supported at all.”

Camille had a mental health crisis, triggered by a traumatic event in her personal life, but exacerbated by her work.

In this blog, this ambitious female founder (pictured below) tells me about her new ethos around taking proper care of her wellbeing at work and what she’s done to create a work culture that is good for people as well as business.

Camille Pierson from The Float Spa wellness centre

Can you pile stress onto yourself ad infinitum?

“The analogy of imagining your life as a bucket is an effective one” Camille tells me. “The things that you experience during the day go into your bucket – this could be a rude driver cutting you up, your washing machine breaking down, and you’re worried about your Mum’s health. You might have even started the day with your ‘bucket’ semi-full because you slept really badly.

All these life challenges and more go into your bucket - and then you overlay those with work challenges. Your client is unhappy, a deadline was missed and so on.

When you're adding all these things in constantly, your bucket will overflow.

You need to do things during your day to empty your bucket, to prevent it from overflowing.”

Woman in a highly stressful job

There’s only so much stress that you can take. In this article you’ll find suggestions for good stress-busting strategies and the small changes in your working day that could make a big difference.

What kind of crisis did Camille have to face?

“In 2014, my daughter became seriously ill and was in paediatric intensive care. And then I started to down spiral very, very quickly and was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. My illness was a result of my daughter's illness. My daughter recovered, but when I returned to my senior job in marketing, the work environment was making me a lot worse. I realised that I couldn’t spend five days a week somewhere that was making me really, really ill.”

The “completely bonkers” decision to set up her own company

Camille would rarely advocate leaving a job as being the best solution to stress. We’ll come onto the changes you can make whilst in your current job shortly. But as well as seeking out medical help, leaving her job was Camille’s decision in order to regain control. It was risky – her husband was self-employed too and they had a daughter to provide for.

Camille Pierson is founder of The Float Spa in Brighton

Camille saw a gap in the market and set up The Float Spa in Hove in 2015. This wellbeing centre has gone from strength to strength and now boasts 30,000 clients and offers yoga classes, massage therapy, infrared sauna, nutritional therapy, meditation, physiotherapy, acupuncture, Reiki and more.

“Floatation therapy, yoga and meditation all helped me recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and had such a profound effect on me that I built a business around them. Floating saved my life – I was feeling suicidal at the time.”

What is floatation therapy? You lie and relax in a special pod of Epsom Salt water for an hour and enjoy being completely free from gravity and external stimuli. You can either close the pod’s lid or leave it open.

Floatation therapy for stress

The Float Spa explains that “Without the constant noise of analysing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol (which is the main chemical component of stress) and your brain releases elevated levels of endorphins.” Many customers also report that it helps them sleep better afterwards. It surprised me to hear that around half of people taking floatation therapy are men – and Camille wonders if part of its popularity for some is because you actually don't need to talk to anyone.

Funnily enough, when Camille’s father first suggested floatation therapy, she responded that she didn’t have five minutes to herself, never mind an hour! It’s a common attitude.

She was persuaded to try and now enthuses that floatation is incredible to help manage stress loads.

But this is not an article to promote floating. It’s an article encouraging you to take the time to think about your mental health and explore options on what might help you. What works for you will be different to somebody else.

What are the little things you could do during your working day to help reduce feelings of stress?

Moving at work to go and get a drink of water

  • Don’t look at your work emails outside of working hours
  • Avoid back-to-back meetings
  • Have a little microbreak between each client phone call or meeting
  • Step outside for a breath of fresh air
  • Move your body frequently – stretch and change postures
  • Hydrate your body and mind by drinking plenty of water – and moving to fetch it
  • Cheer yourself with music or a shared joke
  • Turn off non-essential messaging and notifications on your phone
  • Don’t disturb colleagues during their precious time off and make it clear you are non-contactable except in genuine emergencies too
  • Improve your comfort and prevent physical pain by positioning yourself at your desk ergonomically

“My capacity is full at the moment”

Too much stress at work

Talk to your team members about your workload and don’t be a martyr. Do make a meeting with your manager or HR personnel if you’re feeling overwhelmed – there’s never nothing that can be done. Share your worries with a family member, friend, doctor or mental health helpline – don’t bottle it all up.

The language that Camille recommends using when talking to colleagues is brilliant in my opinion. She communicates with her team if her ‘capacity is full’ and tends to find that their response is ‘how can I help you?’.

And even if help is not then offered, you could make it clear what is and what is not doable by you in a timeframe and ask another team member to take on a specific task.

It's not just saying “I’m busy” and it’s not using toxic language; it's about communicating actually what you mean. “My capacity is full because I'm doing X, Y and Z. Can I pass some of these jobs to you?” In an ideal situation, your colleague will feel empowered.

Camille now coaches people in the most stressful of jobs – including nursing. “I teach how not to get activated when something happens. Because you can control how you react to situations if you look after your own mental wellbeing.”

Find something that brings you joy. Find something to be grateful for.

Man cuddling a cat and reducing his stress levels

Outside of work, little mood boosters will help your mental health and consequently help you better enjoy your working life too.

Camille has kids of primary school age. “I have a particular way of waking them up in a nice way without startling them, and giving them a little cuddle in the morning. And just reminding them that they’re loved. It makes me feel really good.

And they don't acknowledge it until I don't do it! And they said, oh, do you not love me today? So it does land, but it's just little things that you can do to ‘empty your bucket’.”

Wellbeing doesn't have to be going to the gym for an hour a day

Camille Pierson finds exercising reduces feelings of stress

Although you might have noticed from these photos that Camille Pierson is not exactly a couch potato…

For her, exercising is stress busting and she loves the feeling of challenging her body. When we meet, Camille has just run the 2024 London Marathon and raised £5,000 for Rockinghorse Children’s Charity no less!

She competes in triathlons for fun, for goodness sake.

Yoga is also a regular healthy habit for Camille: “The simple art of yoga is just yourself and your mat. You’re using your body, and not your brain. It's about listening to the instruction from the teacher and being mindful about what you're doing.

It's a bit like meditation and a lot of people say to me that they can't meditate because they can't get their brain to switch off. But I tell them it's just getting your brain to focus on one thing, and with yoga that could be thinking about how your hands are positioned to do a Downward Dog pose. Once you've learned to just focus on what you're doing in the here and now, that is when the real wellbeing power comes in.

Yoga helps reduce stress by focusing on one thing

Yoga is not about comparing bodies or looking at what other people are doing. We have no mirrors in our yoga studio for that exact reason. But what you've done is created a buffer in your day to come and do something that's actually good for your body and mind.”

Workplace wellbeing does come from the top down

If your organisation offers a paid day off to volunteer, does the managing director take one? They should set a good example. “If you have this big issue with hiding behind the status symbol of being busy and everyone's too busy to do this, then wellbeing is never prioritised” Camille argues.

“Understanding how to prioritise wellbeing at work is actually to take frequent microbreaks, to take lunch breaks, to carry out breathing exercises, to walk around the office, just to break up the day. You will find everyone's productivity massively surges up because they're not sat behind the desks to look busy. There’s no ‘I'm so stressed because my brain is full and I can't jump from task to task and I've got to sit here - because if I don't sit here, I don't look busy enough’.

Let's scrap that - if you're going to implement a wellbeing strategy, you need to actually implement it.”

Move right now and stop sitting to reading this in fact! I won’t care – my objective will be ticked!

Campaigns such as Move More in ’24 are important and highly effective.

Go ahead and use that employee health plan

If you’re an employee, have you been given a health cash plan? And do your leaders use it to enhance their wellbeing and enthuse about it to others?

I do have an employee health plan with Westfield Health, and what have I used it for so far? Contact lenses for one of my sons and physiotherapy for the other. Have I actually got around to using the free stress-reducing Indian head massage opportunity that I fancied for myself? I have not. I think I need to take a dose of my own medicine here.

Talking of employee perks…

Is it not MORE stressful, having your own company than being an employee?

“It can still be stressful, being the employer, yes. But it’s a different kind of stress. You’re more in control. Now the harder I work, fundamentally the better my business is going to be, and I like being the decision maker. My objective is making sure my team are happy and my team are my most important asset. And I know myself better now and I know what my stress triggers are and how to deal with them. I 100% prioritise my own wellbeing in my work life now, despite the size of my business.”

Camille learned the hard way to take better care of her wellbeing at work. Try to learn the gentler, wiser, holistic, more mindful way.

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