HOW TO REDUCE STRESS AT WORK
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Table of content
Introduction and definition of stress management
Let’s face it: stress is inevitable. With the speed of business moving faster than ever, it can be easy to compile stress at work and it can very quickly turn into all sorts of physical and mental aches and pains.
Stress Management is defined as a multitude of techniques, strategies and practices that help to reduce overall stress and stress-based symptoms within your system.
It’s important to develop positive Stress Management practices for the workplace in order to increase productivity and create a sustainable environment in which you can thrive. It can take a bit of effort to stop the inertia and consciously develop healthy Stress Management habits if you’re already experiencing a lot of stress in the workplace. Once you do, however, you’ll never want to go back.
With proper Stress Management, you increase the potential for even greater output than ever. This short guide will introduce you to many positive techniques and strategies to better improve your health at work. The purpose of these practices is to allow you to continue to engage in the needs of your business without losing your mind. Let’s get into it.
Common Sources of Workplace Stress
You will always be trying to handle the symptoms unless you get to the root cause of your stress. The techniques and tips mentioned in this guide will serve you better if you know what you’re actually looking to adjust or eliminate.
Stress is often very individual in how it arises – what stresses one person may be a breeze for another. Yet, some causes are pretty much universal. Some of these stress factors are:
- Low salary
- Negative working environment
- Poor working relationships
- Overwhelming workload
- Uninspiring job content
- Harsh management practices
- No growth opportunities
- Discrimination or harassment
- Job insecurity
Stress often creates passivity in a person – due to exhaustion or lack of inspiration – that stops them from taking action in service of their growth and wellbeing. Read on to learn about how stress affects your system, and how to help yourself reduce your stress levels.
Symptoms of Workplace Stress
If you’ve ever experienced the effects of stress, then you already know how unpleasant they are. Some of the most widespread symptoms of too much stress are:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Muscular tension
- Inability to cope
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drop in performance
- Increased food/alcohol/drug/media consumption
You deserve a calm, peaceful state of body and mind. Without it, you can’t hope to tap into your greatest potential. True, a little stress or pressure can lend itself to greater productivity in the short-term, but it is not sustainable.
Benefits of Stress Management
When you feel good, you perform better. The list of positive effects of proper Stress Management could be four times as long, but some of the most valuable perks to reducing workplace stress are:
- Reduction of the aforementioned physical/psycho-emotional/behavioral symptoms
- Increased feelings of joy
- Improved work performance and productivity
- Greater job satisfaction
- Improved creativity and problem-solving abilities
- An increased overall feeling of wellbeing and health
So how do you get there? Continue reading to discover some simple and powerful ways to create a healthier, happier, less-stressed-out you.
5 Simple-but-Powerful Stress Management Techniques
The most difficult part about implementing these techniques will be consciously reminding yourself to do them until they become a habit. Once they’ve become part of your routine you won’t even have to think about them. Your day will just naturally include several opportunities to release stress, which may be all you need to increase your overall workplace health.
When you’re feeling stressed and there’s pressure to keep barreling forward, just stop for a moment. Give yourself three slow inhales and exhales. Focus only on tuning in to your breath. When you do this your body receives a signal that it is safe, naturally reducing the stress response. Repeat this action as many times as is needed to bring yourself back to center.
- Stretch Breaks
It may seem like a good idea to stay at your desk for hours on end with no break, but productivity is shown to increase with regular short breaks. Get up, stretch yourself out, go for a brief walk to get the blood flowing and give your mind a rest from whatever task you’ve been working on. When you go back to it you’ll be more energized, rejuvenated and ready to take on the next assignment.
- Time Management Practices
Time Management is integral to stress-reduction in the workplace. The more efficient you are with your time, the more control you have over your day and the less overwhelm you will feel.
Check out our Time Management Guide to learn more about how you can better utilize your time at work.
- Listen to Music
Music is a natural stress reducer, and studies show that classical music in particular increases productivity, concentration, and performance in the workplace. Even if Mozart isn’t your thing, playing some music in the background while working, or blasting it in the car on the way home is a great way to take down your stress levels.
Rather than force yourself to grind through long hours at work, check in – do you really need to take a break? How much water have you had? Are you taking on too much and can you safely delegate some tasks in order to unburden yourself? The more self-care you practice, the brighter you will shine, making you even more of an asset in the workplace.
6 Effective Stress Management Strategies
In addition to the techniques listed above, these more comprehensive strategies help you to cultivate an overall environment in which to thrive. Consider these big-picture tips to be applied over the long-term.
- Develop and Implement Clear Boundaries
Know your limits and state them clearly. It’s easy to let others take advantage of your time and skills, especially when you are great at your job, but don’t let it happen. If you’ve already got a full workload, kindly but firmly refuse taking on any more work until you truly have the space to do so.
- Make Time to Really Rest
It’s common knowledge that adequate sleep improves performance and reduces stress at work but resting goes beyond just some good shut-eye. Meditation, sitting quietly and doing nothing, going on a long walk or listening to music all count as rest. Give yourself time to rest every single day rather than saving rest for “whenever there’s time.” You have to value it and build it into your schedule or it will fall by the wayside.
- But Don’t Confuse Rest for Relaxation
Both are needed, and they are not the same. Relaxation consists of those activities that bring you joy, pleasure and/or a sense of calm. What are your hobbies? If you don’t have one – find one! Doing something nourishing or uplifting for yourself will ease the tension in your system, making you better prepared to take on the work you need to do.
- Create a Support System
Who are your closest friends and how often do you see them? Do you have positive, healthy workplace relationships? How often do you speak with supportive family members? Stress can equal isolation, but the more you can purposefully connect with your various communities the more you will rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. Call a friend to vent, have a family dinner, have a glass of wine with your partner – whatever connects you to others, do it. You don’t have to do everything alone.
- Keep Track of Your Stressors
Sometimes you may not even know what it is that stresses you out. Take notes on your days to remind yourself of those people, places or events that caused feelings of stress to occur within you. The more you pay attention to what may be harming you, the better chance you have to adjust your environment or behavior to eliminate or reduce it in your daily life.
- Focus on One Thing at a Time
Multi-tasking seems effective, but it actually reduces overall productivity. Focusing on one task at a time eases pressure in your mind and allows you to feel more at ease and in control of what’s going on. Practicing good Time Management will help you be able to comfortably concentrate on one task at a time without feeling like you’re not doing enough.
6 Healing Activities to Reduce Your Stress Level
While participating in any activity you enjoy will help reduce your stress, these specific activities are built for stress-reduction. If you’re already doing them – great! Perhaps this is a call to deepen your practice. If these are new to you, try them out and find the ones that resonate.
Yoga is all the rage these days and with good reason. It helps the mind and the body come into harmony with one another, aligns your breathing and deepens your presence. Not to mention it helps to tone muscles and increase overall fitness! Some corporations are starting to offer Yoga in the workplace. If your business does this – take advantage! If not, find a nearby Yoga studio and try it out for a few weeks to see what benefit you take away from it.
If you feel called to learn more tips and tricks, try out a course. An online course may help you better implement healthy workplace habits and shift your perspective on what constitutes a healthy amount of stress.
If you’re ready to really unravel some deeper habits and patterns that may be adding to your stress, therapy is a good choice. CBT in particular is shown to be great for reducing stress in patients by getting to the root of the problem rather than just handling the symptoms. Therapy can come in many forms, however. Art therapy, horse therapy, drama therapy, sensory deprivation therapy…the list goes on. The only way to know what works for you is to try it and see.
If Yoga isn’t your thing, fitness is essential for stress reduction. From CrossFit to swimming to TRX to SoulCycle, any and all of these methods of getting a good sweat going will help you release excess energy and alleviate stress from your body. Make it a habit to exercise at least two times a week, but preferably up to six days per week if you can.
If you’re a high-performing businesswoman, odds are you’re in a city, which means little-to-no contact with nature. However, spending some quality time in nature can improve your mood and reduce your stress instantly. If it’s possible, go on a hike or a long walk through the woods. If that’s not available to you, visit a park, garden, arboretum or body of water. Whatever gets you out of the city and back in contact with nature. You’ll breathe deeper, and as you learned earlier in this guide, breath is key to bringing you back into a peaceful, centered state.
- Spa Days
There is nothing as relaxing as a luxurious trip to the spa. Sometimes allowing your body to unwind helps the mind to relax as well. Treating yourself to a massage, some time in the sauna or steam room or a full-body seaweed wrap can radically reduce stress levels.
Stress and Burnout
Stress in the workplace can even lead to a burnout which isn’t just being overworked or not getting enough rest. It’s job-induced depression and can be incredibly detrimental to your job and personal life. Once you notice the first signs of it, you must act immediately. Follow these tips on how to avoid burnout and decrease your stress level:
- Learn how to recognize signs of burnout
- Get enough sleep
- Meditate and practice deep breathing
- Exercise or play sport regularly
- Try yoga
- Have a healthy diet
- Don’t check-in during your time off—and don’t feel bad about it
- Take the time you need for your tasks—with good judgment
- Know your breaking point and ask for help if you need it
- Schedule free time
- Go outside every single day
- Take a vacation and fully unplug
- Pursue your passions and find a hobby
Managing stress is imperative for longevity in the workplace and in life. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to add practices like the ones outlined in this guide to your daily schedule. With a little time and effort, you can turn your work into something you look forward to tackling, rather than something that weighs you down. Take care of yourself and your performance is bound to improve exponentially.