As employees, we often get caught in the day to day of completing tasks required for our jobs that seem like they’re never going to get done. For one reason or another, the work continues to grow & pile up, which can lead to anxiety, or workplace stress to meet certain deadlines. This workplace stress builds up, and we can often find ourselves not recognizing how we might be reacting to the pressures of work. Coping with stress at work can be difficult, but it is important to have healthy mental health ‘breaks’ every now & again. Your mental well-being is directly tied to your job, and it is important to acknowledge that and to take care of ourselves, both physically & mentally.
Understanding Stress & How to Manage it
Stress is a normal part of life; we all experience stress at one point or another in life. Dealing with stress at work or in other environments is important, and completely natural. Some stress can actually be good as a motivator, helping people keep their focus & accomplish tasks/goals. The problems with stress start creeping in once the stress is frequent and intense, and it can physically put a strain on your body, making it more difficult to function overall.
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Stress hormones are controlled by the hypothalamus, a small region of the brain located by the base. The hypothalamus has many important functions, some of which include regulating the temperature of our body and releasing hormones. The stress hormones released react in our body the same way our body’s ‘flight or fight’ response is triggered, you experience a racing heart, your breath will traditionally quicken, and you will begin to feel your muscles tighten.
Knowing what situations are stressful for you is an important step in learning how to minimize stress. Stress can’t be avoided entirely, but knowing what your workplace stressors are ahead of time can prepare you to overcome that stress/anxiety in the future.
When Are You Most Vulnerable to Stress?
People tend to be vulnerable to stress when they are not getting enough sleep. Sleep ensures that the body is not only well-rested physically, but mentally as well. Another warning sign of stress could be the lack of a strong support network, as not having someone you can confide in can lead to stress. Having poor physical health habits (eating too much junk food, not actively working out, abusing substances) can all lead to increased stress levels as well, as your physical body is not prepared to deal with stress, you are left more vulnerable.
Of course, sources of stress will differ from person to person. For example, some people don’t like large crowds and noisy environments, while others react negatively to silence and free time.
How Can I Reduce Stress?
Developing a stress management strategy can improve your overall quality of life. Once you’ve learned what stresses you out, try different strategies to help you deal with them if they continue occurring.
Some common ways to reduce stress include:
Recognize what your triggers are: What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know, plan of how you can address them and talk with a supervisor, so they are aware of the stress it causes you and how you are working to address that stress.
Time Management Skills: Prioritizing your activities can help you use your time well, and ensuring that the most essential work is completed can lead to lower stress levels.
Practice Relaxation: Deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have lasting benefits. These only take a couple of minutes and they begin to work right away.
Exercise Daily: Schedule time to walk outside. On one of your breaks at work, you can take a walk outside. The fresh air, sunlight, and activity will all change the way you feel and give you a second-wind to return back to work.
Set Aside Time Daily for Yourself: If you leave home 5 minutes early and are able to arrive 5 minutes early at work, sit in your car and practice deep breathing, mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation, this will allow you to come into work with a clear mind and a fresh outlook.
Eat Well: Eating unprocessed foods, like vegetables or fresh fruit is the foundation of a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood. Try bringing fresh veggies and fruit for snacks or your lunch, avoid fast food or candies/sweets when possible.
Get enough sleep: Get a full night’s sleep. Doctors suggest 7-9 hours a night undisturbed.
Dedicate time to prayer and meditation: If faith is important to you, schedule time for prayer and meditation before going into work.
Sit somewhere quiet, with your feet on the ground, back straight and hands on your lap. Where you comfortable. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. Breath in through your nose slowly, so you feel the breath going deep into your stomach and slowly exhale out through your mouth slowly. Continue to focus on your breathing, if your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to focusing on your breathing. Continue this for about 5-minutes and then slowly open your eyes and move around where you are at, before going back to work. You will need to do this exercise several times before your mind will naturally begin to stay focused only on your breathing.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Sit in your chair comfortably with your back against the back of the chair and your legs stretched out in front of you, your arms dangling to your side (this can also be done lying down). Close your eyes begin to breathe, notice your breath coming in your nose and out your mouth. Starting with your feet you are going to tighten the muscles as you breathe in and then release your feet muscles as you exhale. Do these 2 or 3 times and then move up your body to your calves. Again, tightening the calve muscles as you breathe in and releasing the muscles as you are exhaling. You will continue this process up your body to your thighs, buttocks, stomach, hands, arms, shoulders, and then neck moving it around in a circular motion, remember to breathe. Breathing in as you tighten the muscles and exhaling as you release the muscles. Once you have completed the process to take a couple more breaths focusing on them and then slowly open your eyes and begin to move around.
Seeking Treatment at South Sound Behavioral Hospital
Currently, South Sound Behavioral provides specialized, evidence-based treatment for adults designed to meet the needs of our community. Inpatient, day hospital and intensive outpatient programs are provided as a community service. At South Sound, we offer mental health assessments 24/7, at no charge. If you or a loved one needs treatment, please call us at (844) 949-8888.