A List of Strategies For Managing Stress In The Workplace
It is no secret, work can leave us feeling stressed out, tired, and unfortunately workplace stress is not going away anytime soon. More and more people are feeling the pressures of their jobs. Of course, in small doses, workplace stress can be quite normal. Stress, in some ways can even help us push through challenges and hard tasks. Much of how we deal and cope with stress determines both short and long-term outcomes.
However, chronic stress with poor coping skills can lead to physical, mental and emotional issues. According to The American Institute of Stress, main causes of workplace stress include lack of job security (6%), juggling work/personal life (20%), people issues (28%), and workload (46%).
WHO (World Health Organization) divides stress related hazards into "work content" and "work context". Work content would be things associated with monotony, meaningless of tasks, workload and workplace, etc. Work context includes things such as job insecurities, the workers role in the organization and organizational culture.
An interesting study on workplace stress found that nearly half of adults working, said there job affected there overall health, only 28% believing it was in a positive manner. According to this same article in the Harvard Gazette, data shows that 36% of workers suffer from work-related stress, which in turn costs U.S. businesses 30 billion a year in lost workdays. Even when business's do offer some sort of assistance with work-related stress, people fear that using these resources may create a "certain stigma" associated with mental health.
Simply put, workplace stress is real and it is a growing problem. The problem in our eyes is one that needs to be addressed sooner then later, for both personal and business related reasons. According to the World Health Organization, work-related stress is then further worsened when employees feel as though they have a lack of support.
In this article, we'll discuss some strategies you can use to effectively manage your levels of stress, while at work.
Top Strategies For Managing Stress In The Workplace:
1. Keep A Positive Attitude
Here are some fairly important reasons to attempt to have an overall positive outlook on life:
According to Hopkinsmedicine.org, individuals, with even a family history of heart disease who have a positive outlook are 33% less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within 5-25 years, than those with a negative outlook.
One of the reasons for this, the article (above) explains, may be due to the bodies inflammatory responses that occur when under stress. A sense of positivity may help to protect the body from such inflammatory responses.
According to one review, positive thinking helps us perceive stress as "less threatening", and the ability to cope better when dealing with it. A positive attitude may also help us to remain focused better on long term goals, enhancing our ability to learn and problem solve.
Here's another example of the effects of positivity and attitude:
Stanford School of Medicine conducted a study linking "having a positive attitude toward math" in elementary school students, to better brain function of the hippocampus. The hippocampus being an important memory center in the brain. They concluded that just attitude alone is "really important".
There have also been studies linking positivity to better immune function, measured through blood tests.
When you're able to see more of the positives, this can help buffer you against the negatives at work. Now with all of this said, if you're currently having trouble looking at life on a more positive note, you have to be open to change. Just like adapting toa new way of eating healthier or a more active lifestyle, there has to be some intrinsic motivations here.
Here are some ways to start the process of positivity:
1. Begin everyday on a positive note. This can be something big, or small.
2. Positive self-talk.
3. Identify things you find stressful or triggers, and come up with ways to deal them better or negate them all-together.
4. Surround yourself with positive people. Look for fun groups to join on social media outlets.
5. Laugh more! Whatever it takes, be open to more laughter or humor. Think of things that place you in a good mood.
2. Do Deep Breathing Exercises
Especially at work, stress can affect you at any point in your day, sometimes you never know when it's going to hit you. We've all been there right. It's a beautiful morning, sun it shining, get to work, everything going smoothly, and then BAM! Are you kidding me!!! The stress-bug strikes!
Maybe it's an issues with a new work deadline, maybe it's an issue with a co-worker, maybe it's a personal problem that is now going to effect your job.
Panicking (fight-or-flight) is a natural human response, but it will not lessen your stress and/or frustration, in fact prolonged time in this bodily response can be a bad thing, indeed.
This is where redirecting your focus to simple activities like, breathing exercises can be effective. First off, we all breath, right? This is a normal and involuntary action of the body. However, what if we made "voluntary changes" to our breathing patterns in times of stress. This technique is not about eliminating your stress, or your current problem, this is a mode for coping with it, so that we can better tackle the issues at hand.
Physiologically and psychologically, deep breathing offers us a quick way to reverse our bodies stress response, lowering our blood pressure, heart rate, decreased cortisol levels, and anxiety symptoms. Getting our bodies back into that rest/recovery phase more quickly and effectively.
Here are some Deep Breathing Exercises to try!
3. Eat A Healthy Breakfast and Lunch
What you eat is important for your stress levels as well. Sometimes, stress can effect the way in which we eat (or our food choices). In this day and age, with more resources and research then every before, we need to understand the role of diet for proper self-management. Certain foods and drinks can actually have a negative impact on mood. With that being said, there are also foods that may help fight against stress, and anxiety symptoms.
If you're a high stress individual, are drinks such as coffee (with caffeine) or energy drinks necessarily the right choices for you?
Healthy food options have the potential to help protect you from more extreme levels of stress.
There are many different thought processes in and around nutrition and stress.
Take for instance, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which focuses heavily on ingredients and interactions with these ingredients, as well as relationship between food and energy to aide in "restoring a state of balance for the body".
Similarly, we know that certain nutrients in our diet aid in stress reduction. This can include foods that aid in sleep, improving immune function, inducing brain chemicals like serotonin production, and reducing surges in stress hormone's.
So think about this the next time you put food on your plate at lunch or breakfast or reach for "comfort food".
Here are some Stress Reducing nutrients: (according to Explore IM Integrative Medicine)
a. Vitamin C - Helps to lower cortisol, a stress hormone.
b. Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Help to reduce surges of stress hormones.
Here are some Healthy Stress Reducing Foods (according to health.com)
a. Green leafy vegetables
e. Green Tea
4. Sleep Well The Night Before
Sleep is another crucial component for managing stress in the workplace and everyday life for that matter. According to the Cleveland Clinic, poor sleep is associated with all sorts of negative outcomes like; lack of alertness, impaired memory, relationship stress, poorer quality of life and even increased likelihood of car accidents.
However, it doesn't stop there, merely every body system can be effected negatively, like your immune system, respiratory system, endocrine, cardiovascular and digestion systems, in some way.
In general, you'll want to avoid sleepless nights as much as possible, especially chronic issues. Remember, during sleep our body is still working. During this time your body heals itself and restores chemical imbalances.
In fact, did you know that both short and long durations of sleep are significant predictors of death. Crazy , right! This is not to scare you, this is merely to make you aware, your body needs sleep!
When it comes to poor sleep and stress, well you probably guessed it, poor sleep or poor quality of sleep can lead to stress. On the flip side, stress and anxiety can lead to insomnia, which is a sleep disturbance, so it can become a vicious cycle.
According to the National Sleep Foundation's guidelines, generally healthy adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. This differs for different ages, which you can read more about here.
There are natural ways to combat and fight stress before going to bed, however.
Lending yourself to trying things like, meditation with music prior to going to bed or if you must exercise, try yoga for better sleep. These are things to get our minds and bodies connected, focusing on the present moment, not what happened today at work and not the stressors of tomorrow.
5. Know When to Say No
Workload, sometimes has to do with simply setting boundaries in the workplace. Learn to say no; learn how to prioritize; learn to turn the switch off when you leave work.
It's all well in good and we have all went that extra mile for our jobs, or to push ourselves to meet a changing deadline, however the bottom line is you have to know how, and when to check yourself. There has to be a balancing system in place, between work, home, hobbies, etc. If not, you're asking for trouble.
The American Psychological Association discusses this very thing, "establishing boundaries". It's easier then ever to be available 24/7 these days because of the digital media platform(s). However, they recommended doing things (or not doing things) like checking your email at home, or not answering the phone during dinner. Sometimes simple changes, equal bigger and better outcomes.
Take a vacation or 2 a year if your have them, don't let your time go to waste, you've earned that time for a reason, from your consistent hard work! This is your time to "recharge your systems".
Think about your own health!
You know yourself best, if you think you're over-extending yourself, you probably are. Trust your instincts.
Don't forget you can always talk to someone as well, support groups exist. Oftentimes when we find people of similar personalities, career paths, or maybe even similar stresses, we can relate better and help one another through situations. Use your resources!
6. Keep Your Workplace Tidy
More evidence based research, right? Right! Studies have concluded that people with cleaner houses are "healthier" then people with messy houses.
Another study found that women with higher stress at home (feeling that there home was "cluttered" or full of "unfinished projects") had increased depressed mood over the course of a day, as well as higher cortisol levels.
The point is, less clutter leads to more efficiently and effectively getting things completed and feeling less anxious, overwhelmed and "stressed-out".
A messy workspace can contribute to your stress in a negative way. Unorganized cubicles or desks lead to a lack of productivity and slow down workflow. Oftentimes this occurs do to a surplus amount of stimuli in the visual fields. Multiple stimuli in a given visual field at the same time, actually compete for representation, according to one study.
7. Walk A Little
Another way to beat stress at work is with a little exercise. A little bit of movement at work may just be able to go a long way! Not only are you burning extra calories, it may just lead to a more productive day on the job.
Some research indicates that people who exercise on work days are less stressed, more productive and even see mood improvement compared to non-exercise days. This form of exercise can be done before work or even at a lunch break.
Doing some laps around your office building or walking around your office, or even simple stretches can help release those "feel good" hormones, we all know and love.
Walking and other physical activities are a natural endorphin booster.
8. Find Ways to De-stress During Your Commute
This is the final strategy we'll introduce for managing stress in the workplace. You might not see your commute as a way to de-stress, especially if you drive a busy road or highway into work. As this strategy may not be for everyone, for some it may be the perfect time to find a few moments of relaxation, before or after work.
This can be a few minutes alone for reflection or just to simply drive, listening to your favorite audiobook, podcasts, music or enjoying nature and the present moment. For some, it may be a time for tension, but it can certainly be a time for non-tension as well.
If you are not into listening to content,
then try doing some breathing exercises, or maybe an aromatherapy car diffuser with your favorite scents. A commute is a great place to hone in
on these skills, especially if you get stuck in traffic.
Try a meditation app. There are now a wide variety of meditation apps to choose from, both free and paid. They offer audio clips of guided meditation and a lot of other useful information.
Related Article: A Stress Diary: The Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management
Whatever you do, just like managing stress in your home life, managing it at work is also hugely important. Figure out strategies that work for you and practice them. If the first thing is not working, try something new or different.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for stopping by! Please share your experiences on ways you deal with workplace stress in the comments section of our blog.