If you feel that your job is the number stressor in your life, you are not alone. A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that Americans listed job pressure as the number one source of stress in their lives. In fact, 76 percent listed money and work as top contributors to their stress levels. These are particularly troubling statistics given stress proven adverse effects on productivity and health. Even though the CDC tells us that 75 percent of physician’s visits are stress related, 36 percent of Americans surveyed did not believe that stress was a major contributor to their physical ailments. Yet, we know that stress increases risk of heart disease, makes us more susceptible to illness, increases risk of anxiety and depression, makes it more difficult to focus and increase risk of chronic pain and musculoskeletal injuries.
Tips to combat work stress:
1. Resist the temptation to skip lunch. You would not expect your car to run on an empty tank, so do not expect your brain to function optimally if it is dehydrated and lacks fuel. By the same token, chose foods that are shown to improve moods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Avoid junk foods as they have been shown to have a negative impact on moods.
2. If you are beginning to feel overwhelmed and your irritability meter begins to climb, take a break. You can go to the bathroom, go for a short walk or just get up from your desk and just stretch or do some squats, jumping jacks or just short spurt of activity. This allows you to release some of that frustration before it gets a chance to get out of control.
3. Don’t feel like exercising- then take a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises. Stop, close your eyes for a few moments and take a deep breath counting slowly to 6, release slowly. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths. This simple exercise engages the relaxation response and may help to lower those out of control stress hormones.
4. Make lists. If you anticipate a busy day ahead of you with a lot to accomplish, then make a realistic list of the most important things to be done that day. This allows you to stay focused thus limiting frustration. It also allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
5. Get a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep helps you to go in to work energized, focused and ready to take on the day. Lack of sleep decreases your ability to concentrate, interferes with executive brain function that helps you to make good decisions and can leave you feeling fatigued and frazzled for the rest of the day. So, develop a bedtime routine that starts before you get into bed. Establish a time to disconnect from technology. You can wind down by drinking a glass of warm milk, or calming cup of tea or simple soak in a tub of Epsom salts and lavender. In other words, do something that signals your body that it is time to get ready for bed. The body loves routine.
6. Get to know yourself. Learn to recognize when you are stressed. Some of the classic signs of stress can be a nagging headache, stomach upset, increasing irritability, loss of concentration, increase in muscle pain and tension and just a sense of dread going to work every day. Identify the less than ideal ways you cope with stress. Do you self-medicate with junk food or alcohol? If any of these apply to you, it may be time to seek professional help.