The American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in America survey consistently identifies work as a major stressor for the majority of Americans. Furthermore, it’s on the rise. Korn Ferry International’s October 2018 survey indicates that 65 percent of respondents have more work stress today than five years ago. Furthermore, 76 percent of workers felt work has had a negative impact on their personal relationships, and 66 percent have lost sleep due to work stress. This is significantly detrimental not only to mental health but physical health as well.
The Lancet Psychiatry recently published research that found that when workers feel stressed, overworked, and powerless in their jobs, they are at a higher risk for developing mental health problems. Additionally, the European Heart Journal published a study Monday that found work stress is comparable to diabetes and alcohol when it comes to heart health.
With a dizzying array of holiday demands heaped on top of an already intimidating amount of work stress, many of us simply adopt an attitude of just getting through the holidays. However, it’s possible to not only survive but thrive during the end-of-the-year sprint by giving yourself the gift of work stress relief. It’s the ultimate gift that keeps giving all year long, and your body and brain will thank you for it with increased productivity, serenity and happiness in the workplace and in life.
3 Steps to Manage Work Stress
While there’s little we can do to relieve external stressors, we can control how we internalize work stress. To effectively handle stress, we need to address our physical health, as well as our mental and emotional well-being.
Step 1: Release Bodily Work Stress
Since stress has tangible physiological components, involving hormonal and chemical reactions, the first thing we need to address stress is in our bodies to control its physical responses. By watching what we eat, our movements and our sleep, we can start building a solid foundation for a stress-free life.
- Can the processed foods. Processed food can significantly contribute to anxiety. Consequently, eating whole foods, fruits and vegetables, as well as getting substantial omega-3 fatty acids from fish, hemp, chia and flax can help prevent work stress before it even starts.
- Exercise. Exercise releases “happy” hormones that naturally relieve anxiety. So, when you feel your stress levels start to rise, you can immediately combat these feelings by getting up and moving. Stretching, running in pace, dancing, or just walking around the building will get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing. Combine movement with deep, cleansing breaths to boost benefits.
- Sleep. Sleep deprivation only serves to magnify work stress. A solid eight hours of sleep allows us to be clearer minded and feel more capable to handle the day no matter what it brings.
Step 2: Relieve Mental Work Stress
Many people attribute stress to external factors. However, stress is actually our response to these external forces. Stress is a function of the “flight-or-fight response.” The way we mentally process external stressors can cause the body to start producing excess histamine, cortisol, and adrenaline. Consequently, if stress starts in the mind with our thoughts, then a peaceful mindset is imperative to cutting off work stress.
- Be actively grateful. Things inevitably are going to go awry throughout the day. However, shifting the focus to the positive aspects of our life takes the power away from the negative to adversely affect us. An easy way to do this is to simply write down three things that you are grateful for in your life every evening and actively focus on those things in times of trouble.
- Meditation. Consistent meditation allows for more mental control and can even help lower blood pressure. It can even be as little as five minutes a day. When you start to feel like work stress is getting to you – step back, sit down, and meditate for a couple of minutes to clear your thoughts.
- Say “no.” Taking on more than you can reasonably chew leads to stress. We often feel like we must do it all to meet expectations. However, saying “no” and negotiating priorities empowers us to produce higher quality work and reduce external stressors.
Step 3: Alleviate Emotional Work Stress
We are far more than our occupation. Tapping into our whole selves and fueling our sense of purpose is key for less work stress. When we are not engaged in our work, which accounts for a large amount of each day, suppress creativity or ignore our relationships, we trigger our internal stress responses. When work and obligations are the focal point of our existence, we can get resentful, angry and depressed. So, we need to broaden our focus to encompass all aspects of our life to remain balanced.
- Make time for relationships. Sometimes we get so caught up with work that we neglect our personal relationships. To combat this, consciously schedule time with important people in your life just to be together, connect and hang out without work talk or checking your phone.
- Fuel Creativity. You don’t have to be Picasso to make time for creativity in your life. Creativity can be anything from creating a vision board, cooking dinner or writing a letter to a friend.
- Connect with spirituality. Spirituality can mean any number of things. Prayer, meditation and other rituals can help us get perspective on what’s stressing us and the bigger picture to help us stay grounded.
There are always going to be reasons to feel work stress and general anxiety in life. However, we can control how we respond to these external stressors to ensure that we are approaching each day as our best and happiest selves.