A certain amount of good stress at work is normal and welcome. We all want to feel productive and engaged. It’s letting the irritating stressors build up that is so damaging to our health and well-being.
We know that too much stress can lead to severe physical health problems, such as immune deficiency disorders, chronic headaches, cardiovascular disease, and a reduced ability to recover from disease. A study on Workplace Wellness in September 2015, conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that negative workplace stress is highly prevalent. They found that 80 percent of workers reported feeling stress on the job, 40 percent reported feeling very or extremely stressed, and that increased health care costs for those employees increased by up to 50 percent.
When we feel stress coming on during the day, there are some practical things we can do to lessen it, and put our days in better balance:
· Keep healthy snacks on hand. Getting so busy with projects and emails that hours go by without food causes our blood sugar to drop, energy to fall, and stress to increase. It becomes too easy to reach for that sugary drink or food, which is a temporary fix that leads us right back into another severe drop. Keep healthy snacks on hand and eat small amounts often (at least every two hours). Some options are protein bars, nuts, and dried fruit.
· Don’t answer all your emails. We are inundated with emails: some important to the project we are working on, and some just information we can put off until later. Learn to answer emails in order of priority and importance, rather than trying to keep up with all of them to keep stress manageable. Start with the ones from your boss first, then prioritize the others.
· Take stretch breaks. A five-minute stretch break every hour won’t get you behind in work, and is well worth it for stress relief and health benefits. Stand up, raise your arms over your head, gently move from side to side, and do a few neck rolls. This should take three minutes — then do two more minutes of deep breathing. Your next 55 minutes will be a lot more productive. Do this five minutes before you begin work in the morning and set the tone for the day.
· Keep a worry sheet. When stress builds up, and there is more work to do you are worried about, write it down on your “worry sheet.” Make notes on what the issue is and why you are worried. Make a column for possible solutions, and leave that blank. Then get back to work and let it go. You have recorded it so you won’t forget, and your mind will be free to work on the project at hand. When it’s time to get to the next challenge, you have already begun. Another bonus is that your unconscious mind has already started to come up with solutions; you will be surprised at how much more creative you are in solving it. This also works at bedtime when you are worried about a problem at work.
· Take time to laugh a little. Take time out to share a laugh with co-workers during the day. This makes all the difference in not only your stress, but theirs as well. Share a funny joke, laugh at yourself, and join in the camaraderie with your team. This makes the entire team happier and more productive. It also helps relieve the stress when things get too serious.
We will always have stress at work — some good and some bad. The goal is to use good stress to make ourselves more productive, and minimize the bad stress to keep our health and well-being. With this intention and awareness, we can change our entire work day for the better.
Originally published at medium.com