At one time or another, no matter your profession, you have probably experienced stress at work. Whether you are an executive or you own a yoga business like me, stress at work is real! Just because its common, doesn’t always mean its good! And just because its ‘stress’ doesn’t always mean its bad! Stress can help us land a great presentation, prepare for an important conversation, or even motivate us to do more! But when managed incorrectly, stress can derail our success, take the fun out of our work, cause conflicts with coworkers or even make us sick!
What is stress? Stress is the body’s natural response to danger. Stress causes physical reactions in the body. It flushes the body with hormones (cortisol etc) to prepare systems to evade or confront danger. This is known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Stress slows down normal bodily functions, such as the digestive and immune systems so that all resources can then be concentrated on breathing, blood flow, alertness, and muscle use. Short term, stress can be good, but over the long term, stress can cause health impacts such as increase colds and flu, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, digestive problems and may others.
But we gotta work right? So what do we do?
- Studies have shown that even brief amounts of exercise can benefit a person’s mental and physical state. Take a brief walk on your lunch break or do some yoga stretches at your desk.
- This may sound crazy, but coffee can actually make things worse! I know! Unbelievable! Caffeine in small amounts can give you a boost or lift your mood, but too much can actually replicate stress! Stress and prolonged increase of caffeine can lead to increased cortisol which is a stress hormone! Caffeine can also elevate heart rate, blood pressure, and can cause anxiety!
- Set an intention at the beginning of the day and spend a little time prioritizing what is most important to you!
- Try to see things “glass half full” Have you ever noticed that when you think about how much you have already done, you feel good? But if you focus on your list of enormous tasks, you start to feel stressed?
- Stay in the present moment. Our minds often want to look to past to reflect or analyze or look to the future to plan (or worry), try to focus on the here and now as much as you can!
- Meditation, yoga and breathing techniques can help. Breathing exercises and meditation can help reduce stress by calming your nervous system, reducing your heart rate, and focusing your attention in the present moment.
- Stretch it out! We carry tension in our bodies and stretching can help relieve that tension! Gentle neck, back and help stretches can be done right at your desk!
- Multitasking isn’t always as great as we like to think! To me multitasking equals not being fully present in what you are doing! Do you work and eat? Type emails while you are having a conversation?
- Be aware of your stress triggers! We all have them!
- Try to give your phone a break! Do you wake up and look at your cell first thing in the morning? Do you spend all your ‘downtime” surfing the web or looking at social media. Give yourself a chance to be unplugged as often as you can. What would happen if you spend that 5 minutes sitting quietly or listening to your breathing. Try it and see how you feel!
Here are a couple other thoughts on ways to cope with stress at work.
- Set aside time to plan your day! Start with your personal commitments first! Watching your kids soccer game, missing a doctors appointment, or never taking a sick day can cause more stress than spending an extra hour at work “getting things done”.
- TAKE YOUR VACATIONS! Whether its a staycation or you go somewhere fun, taking time to recharge is critical for your wellbeing at home and at work!
- Create some long term and short term priorities and plans! What are your goals and priorities in the next year vs next month. Take time to put your thoughts to paper and to a calendar!
- Staying organized helps us think more clearly! Declutter your desk, purse, wallet, or car! You will be surprised how good it feels and how much clearer your mind feels!
- Make a list of specific work stressors and what you think you can do about them! For things that seem too big, talk to s successful (this is key) peer or your boss! Transparency and asking for help connects us and reinforces that we are not alone! In fact, sometimes the answer can be found in thoughtful advice from a friend or coworker! Be careful to avoid commiserating! Sometimes this can keep us stressed instead of finding a solution for it!
Want more advice on managing stress at work? Visit tuladharayoga.com to learn more about our Workplace Wellness programs!
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