7-step strategy for dealing with stress at work; May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Work-related stress: a man stressed out while working on a laptop

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We work for various reasons – but the main one is that we need a stable source of income. And everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress.

Yes, most of us profess to love what we have chosen as a profession – whether as an actor, a lumberjack, an architect or a transporter, etc. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do.

One faces the pressure of meeting a deadline or fulfilling a demanding obligation. And challenges are good – they help you have a baseline to aim for, motivation to work towards a goal. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming and harmful to physical and emotional health.

Long-term stress from a dysfunctional work environment can contribute to issues such as headaches, upset stomachs, trouble sleeping, short temper and difficulty concentrating and can also lead to anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
Psychologists warn of the threat of burnout or the risk of contracting health problems such as depression, obesity and heart disease. To compound the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol.
Stressed woman working on laptop
Stressed woman working on laptop

7 steps to manage work-related stress:

Here are tips from the American Psychological Association on how to get the most out of your job without burning out or letting stress take over:
  1. Track your stressors: You can do a week-long exercise to track what really triggers stressful episodes in your work life. Keeping a diary for a week can tell you in retrospect what made you feel terrible and helpless, what made you down extra cups of coffee, and how you felt afterwards.
  2. Be proactive, not reactive: Develop healthy responses. Instead of trying to beat stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rising. Remember that yoga, exercises, workouts, long walks – all physical workouts are good stress relievers. Also make time for your favorite hobbies and activities. Watch theater or read books, paint, do karaoke, play games with your family; basically, relax healthy with your family as your backbone.
  3. Compartmentalize and maintain work-life balance: No electronics in the room. Just as you don’t bring chores to the office, avoid bringing them home. Avoid checking your emails from home in the evening or answering an official phone (or any other) during dinner. Situations differ from person to person and there can be no uniform set of rules with general acceptability when it comes to the extent to which people should combine their work and personal life. But creating clear boundaries between these areas can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that comes with it.
  4. Take the time to recharge: This is why weekend retreats exist and do good business. This is not running away from reality. To put aside everything related to responsibilities and recover personal time, free time is a healthy sign. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “disconnecting” from work by having periods when you are not engaging in work-related activities and thinking about work. Relax and you can soon return to work feeling invigorated and ready to perform at your best.
  5. Learn to relax: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking, or eating a meal. The ability to deliberately focus on a single activity without distraction will grow stronger with practice, and you will find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.
  6. Speak to your supervisor: Your boss is your ally. If things aren’t relaxed and stressful between the two of you, it’s time to sit down for a serious discussion. Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being.
  7. Get help: Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to deal with stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress at work, you may want to speak to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors. Never let ego get the better of you, fear or assumptions. Reach out, you might find a thousand opportunities open to you – if you break the ice.

Warning: The tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or dietitian before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet.

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