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Is Stress In The Workplace Getting You Down? Take Action

Coping up with workplace stress is a challenge. Here are some tips to take control over your stress to perform well.

If you are feeling a little frazzled and under par it may be that you are experiencing the negative effects of too much stress. A certain level of stress is a fact of life, in fact although stress receives a lot of negative press, it is necessary for us to fulfil even the most basic functions of life. Stress is what gets us up in the mornings and our ancestors would have used their bodies response to stress, “fight or flight”  in order to escape danger! Problems start to occur when stress starts to spiral out of control. Stress causes our bodies to enter fight or flight mode by the release of hormones one being adrenaline. Adrenaline is useful in the short term, but sustained levels can become detrimental to health. Every individual reacts to stress in different ways and it is important to be aware of how your own body reacts so that you can take steps before your health is affected.

Biological response to stress

When our body enters “fight or flight” mode, certain chemicals and hormones are released into the bloodstream - namely norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. The purpose of this burst of chemicals is to prepare our bodies to respond to threat and danger. Our heartbeat increases, energy is increased and blood rushes to our muscles enabling us to escape or attack.

We don’t often come face to face with sabre tooth tigers in our modern world, but our bodies still respond when faced with challenges in the same way. In today’s world much of the stress we receive is mental in nature and is often workplace based. When high levels of stress are sustained for long periods of time our bodies cannot cope and functions are affected. It may be that you begin to experience forgetfulness and brain fog.

Often one of the main causes of stress in our lives is work. Stress levels can rise rapidly in high pressure work environments, eventually affecting your physical and psychological health. If you find yourself flitting from task to task without actually achieving anything, you feel overwhelmed or you have difficulty focusing on tasks, it may be time to take stock of your current situation and take steps to rectify it.


Know your own body

Before you can take steps to rectify stress levels you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms. You are an individual and you will react to stress in different ways to others. Often people turn to quick fixes which often exacerbates the situation. Often the only option to tackle stress head on is to eliminate props such as alcohol and drugs so that you can move forward. Assistance from professionals should be sought to sort through information like MAT fact vs. fiction in order to make informed choices. Everyone also has their own stress level threshold. There are common signs and symptoms as listed below, however be aware that these vary in severity in different people.
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Digestion problems
  • Disinterest and apathy
  • Isolation
  • Reliance on alcohol and drugs in order to cope
  • Lower immunity - meaning that you seem to pick up viruses and infections easily


Managing workplace stress

An alarming number of work days are lost every year due to stress related conditions, as much as 30 million in the UK alone. This shows how common and virulent workplace stress is. Just about everyone experiences high pressure levels at some point during their working life, it is therefore really important not to feel embarrassed. Most companies develop policies on how to combat stress in the workplace and there should be a clear structure in place for you to follow when seeking advice. Revenue lost from sick days will affect your employer therefore they should hopefully be keen to offer support.

Try the following tips.

It’s good to talk

It’s good to talk
Take time during your working day to chat and socialise with colleagues. Sometimes the act of talking your problems over with someone can be enough to lower stress levels. We live in an increasingly isolated world, where everyone spends every spare moment plugged into their phones or checking social media. Rather than relax you, technology can cause more stress. Everyone portrays an idealistic false image on social media which can cause stress and the feeling of inadequacy in other users. There is no substitute to actually chatting with a “real” person.

Share how you are feeling with colleagues and bosses before it gets too bad. Hopefully you will be able to work out solutions or perhaps your workload could be lessened for a while. Try not to internalise your feelings, find someone who is a good listener and share your concerns.

External to work, your family and friends may have noticed that you appear to be stressed. Be clear with them that any behaviours and irritability you are displaying is down to pressure at work, this will enable them to be understanding and they will be able to offer support. Unfortunately it’s close family who experience the external signs of stress more than work colleagues, due to feeling more relaxed at home.


Delegate tasks

Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others when feeling overwhelmed. Often we feel reluctant to “let go” as we fear that we may look like we have failed. Sometimes it’s simply quicker to do it yourself as you don’t have the time to coach another person to do the task. Get into the habit of prioritising your “to do” list and delegate the tasks that are simply unachievable. It is a fact that you can’t do everything yourself and anytime you spend training others on how to do tasks will pay back tenfold in the future. Visualise your role as if you couldn’t go to work anymore, could other people complete your tasks? If not train people up, this is important for the future viability of your business sector as well as ensuring work doesn’t pile up every time you take a holiday!

Managing stress is best done in a holistic way. Look at your lifestyle and make adaptations in order to help you manage stress levels more effectively.


Diet

You are what you eat is never more true as when you are eating foods designed to combat stress. When stressed we are naturally drawn to high fat/high sugar junk foods, it’s comforting and gives a quick fix high. Unfortunately eating these foods will be detrimental in the long run. It is important to eat a healthy diet which contains all the necessary nutrients for your body to function at its optimum ability. It is also really important to avoid a drop in blood sugar, as this can impair your bodies ability to function under pressure. Try to eat foods which release energy slowly and at a sustained level such as proteins and complex carbohydrates. Similarly eating too much sugar and starch can induce lethargy. Ensure you stay fully hydrated throughout the day by drinking water, juices and herbal teas. Avoid caffeine which can heighten stress. Eating foods containing omega 3 will help lift mood and enhance brain function so include lots of oily fish, seeds and nuts.


Stay active

Exercise is a great stress reliever especially if you incorporate some exercise in the great outdoors. Aerobic exercise helps burn off the hormones and chemicals released when your body enters fight or flight mode and are replaced by endorphins, which make you feel amazing! Exercise is great for helping you “zone out” as it takes your mind off stresses and strains. Exercise can also be social, so rather than exercising alone all the time try to participate in team sports or exercise in a gym.

There are many exercises synonymous with stress relief and these include yoga and Tai Chi. You could also opt for relaxation classes which incorporate meditation, visualization and aromatherapy. Try lots of different types of exercise in order to find the one best for you. Have a look at what’s available in your local area.  .


Get creative

Another fantastic way of reducing stress is by bringing a little creativity into your life. Being creative comes naturally to humans and it is creativity which has helped the world develop. If the last time you did anything creative was at school it time to find a new hobby. Everyone’s interests and talents lie in different areas, you may enjoy baking, painting, gardening or writing. You need to try lots of pastimes to discover the one for you and this is half the fun! The skills you use whilst being creative are transferable to tackling stressful, tricky situations in the workplace. The great thing about art is that there’s no right or wrong way to do things, so let your imagination run wild!

Being creative is a great stress reliever as it switches your mind away from what is causing you stress. Creativity, like exercise releases the “feel good” hormones into your bloodstream, which lowers your blood pressure and induces a sense of calm.  The creative process and the production of something beautiful increases confidence and helps you develop a sense of self worth. Art therapy is often used for people experiencing mental health issues or post traumatic stress disorder with good effect.

Self help as described above are useful in combating stress, however if your stress levels are unmanageable seek professional medical advice. No matter how bad situations feel, there’s always a solution.

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Career Magazine: Is Stress In The Workplace Getting You Down? Take Action
Is Stress In The Workplace Getting You Down? Take Action
Coping up with workplace stress is a challenge. Here are some tips to take control over your stress to perform well.
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