Anyone who has held down a job for any length of time is likely to know what it’s like to experience workplace stress. Whether it’s the pressures of deadlines, long work hours, co-worker conflicts or micro-managing bosses, you name it, we’ve all experienced some form of on-the-job stress to some degree throughout our lives!
As it happens, three out of every four Americans report that they suffer from work-related stress. It is no surprise then, that stress is becoming a health epidemic in our country, and according to the World Health Organization, is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year in healthcare costs!
I too am no stranger to workplace stress, and have always a knack of selecting high-stress occupations! While changing your job isn’t always a feasible option, employing these self-care strategies can help to keep workplace stress to a minimum:
Take a moment to become aware of your breathing patterns when you’re stressed out. Shallow and rapid breathing is typically part of the stress response. However, engaging in controlled breathing can help to promote relaxation and reduce the effects of stress. To reap the benefits, take a minute or two to simply take some slow, deep breaths. Make this exercise a part of your daily routine, practicing it several times throughout the day. It only takes a couple of minutes. You do have a couple of minutes, don’t you?
In today's fast-paced, digital world, it's easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making it a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Whatever your preferences are concerning how much you blend work and home life, creating some distinct boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes along with it!
Find small ways to inject physical activity into your workday. Take a short 15 to 20 minute walk at lunch time, or leave your desk at various intervals throughout the day and do some stretches. Better yet, get your colleagues to join you! If the weather is favorable, suggest you take your meetings outside and talk while you walk! A combination of fresh air, sunshine and walking serves to boost creativity and problem solving skills, while decreasing tension.
Examine what you eat
The foods and drinks you consume throughout your work day may actually be increasing your stress levels. Indeed, items such as caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, sugar, fast food and alcohol are well known to trigger the stress response. Do an inventory of what you eat at work and try to at least cut back on the foods that exacerbate stress. This might mean that you have to steer clear of the break room in order to to avoid that tempting tray of cookies! Instead, find ways to includes foods that boost energy and help to reduce stress, such as fish, nuts, fresh fruit, soups or salads, and drink plenty of fresh water. Rather than ordering take out, pack a nutritious lunch for yourself, and keep healthy snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up!
We have all got caught up in office gossip at some point in our careers. Naturally, being in on the latest scandal can spice up a tedious day at the office, but ultimately leads to hurt feelings and tension amongst colleagues. More over, you don’t necessarily have to like your job, but whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to get entangled in grumbling about work matters or listening to the gripes of others. Have you ever noticed how negative people tend to congregate together? Remember, exposing yourself to all that negativity is likely to adversely affect your mood.
We cannot eliminate or escape stress in the workplace. It is a fact of modern life. Yet we can take measures to neutralize the stress at work by practicing these straightforward, self-care techniques. Indeed, we can create for ourselves a happy, contented life, and it’s never too late to get started!