Workplace stress can not only affect your career but your health. When under stress in the office it is important to understand how to control and better deal with it.
"Workplace stress causes the economy billions of dollars each year–most of it hidden in the form of underperformance at work, unnecessary mistakes, lost time and insurance claims due to injury (both physical and mental), poor morale, and employee turnover. There are also significant costs to the employees themselves: anxiety, depression, physical concerns, insomnia, increased substance use, relationship issues, as well as stress related physical illnesses such as high blood-pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity," explains Edmonton, Canada-based Dr. Ganz Ferrance.
Think things through. "Only stress about what you can actually control. And that isn't much. You can't control the traffic, your co-workers or what the boss wants to see you about on Monday. What you can control is your reaction to all that," says stress and mind/body expert Kathy Gruver, author of "Conquer your Stress with Mind/Body Techniques."
One way to cope with stress is through meditation, says Gruver. And it's easier than you think. "I'm not necessarily talking about formal, sit-on-the- pillow meditation. I'm not particularly good at that, like many people," Gruver explains. "I do a mini meditation. You concentrate on the breath and on the inhale think, 'I am' and on the exhale think, 'at peace.' This stops the stress response, readies the brain for higher functioning (like sales and math), and calms us immediately. These are great before sales meetings, luncheons or individually as needed."
Be well rested. "Get enough sleep. People don't immediately attribute stress to sleep, however they are intrinsically linked. When you are sleep deprived, or when you have not had enough rest, you are more likely to be 'on edge.' You may be lacking energy/patience and it's simply because you didn't allow your body to get enough rest. This is rampant among working people but is probably the simplest of habits to change," says breakthrough coach Cha Tekeli of Chalamode, Inc.
After a good night's sleep, begin your day on a positive note. "Start your day on a happy note. A lot of us rush through the morning to shower, get dressed and get out of the house. It makes for a much calmer day to begin with morning rituals that nurture and nourish you," offers Tekeli. "Spend five minutes in bed after you've awoken to gently make circles of your hands and feet, to stretch your body, to hold your belly and feel your breathing."
Be well nourished. This will help your body better handle stress. "Don't skip breakfast," notes Tekeli. "You can blend yourself something delicious and nutritious in less than three minutes. You can make an excellent egg/cheese protein breakfast in less than five minutes...Food that fuels your body also serves your well-being. You're a lot happier and less stressed when you're not hungry or crashing from too much sugar."
Create a happy environment at work. "Surround yourself in the office with things that inspire you and remind you of you at your best," says Tekeli. "Plants can help. So can a great quote or a picture that 'speaks to you' or something someone gave you as a gift. Your physical environment should be comfortable, loving and feel like a safe haven for you. You can accomplish this, even in a cubicle...When you feel any stress, look at something that's meaningful to you (a picture of a place you love) and bring yourself into a different perspective. Very often, stresses are based on our perceptions at the moment. It helps when we can shift perspectives -- and one of the fastest ways to do this is to put ourselves in another place or another state of mind when we were feeling terrific."
Take a pause. "They say the first thing you need to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. The natural tendency for most people when they feel stressed is to work harder to try to deal with the stuff they see right in front of them. The problem is that this doesn't work. In fact, it only makes the problem worse," says Dr. Ferrance. "By stopping and taking a break, you not only become far more efficient, but you gain valuable objectivity into what's really stressing you and what to do about it. What I do, and I tell my clients to do, is to take frequent minivacations. I suggest taking one minute before you start work to sit quietly, feel your butt in your chair, and just notice your breath moving in and out of your body. You can do this at lunch, when you leave work, before bed, and at your morning and afternoon coffee breaks. By doing this, you never let stress gain inertia in your day. You also teach your body that it's okay to stop."
Take control of your day. "Stop fighting fires: every day we are faced by fires--an irate boss or customer, an unexpected hiccup, or some other calamity," says Melissa Heisler, Stress Reduction Expert and Coach and author of "From Type-A to Type-Me: How to Stop "Doing" Life and Start Living It." "Instead of rushing out of your cubicle and trying to douse the fire with all your might, first determine if it is really important. Many times, fires are distractions from our true work that is important so when a fire pops up, determine its urgency before acting. Then try to get to the root cause."
Don't get bogged down by tech. "Manage your electronics: do not be a prisoner of your electronics. Control how you use them versus reacting to them in the moment. When the communication pops up, you stop what you are doing, you read the email, and you say oh it's not urgent, and you go back to your project and then another email pops up and you do the same thing. This is an amazing waste of time and focus. Turn off notifications for your email, texts and social media," suggests Heisler. "Instead, carve out time slots during the day to check communications."
Keep it real. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. "Simplify and focus: often our stress comes from creating unrealistic expectations. There are only a certain amount of hours in the day," notes Heisler. "Manage what you expect to accomplish by having a list of absolute must-dos for the day; not more than three per day. Make sure you have enough time to accomplish these tasks."
Exercise. "One of the best treatments for and protectors from stress is exercise. Vigorous exercise, which includes some resistance, has been shown to be the best--but really anything that gets your heart pumping, you breathing a little heavier, and working up a little bit of a sweat is definitely beneficial. Not only does this give you a break from the things that are causing you stress, But it also helps to bleed off any stress that you may have accumulated that day," says Dr. Ferrance.
And if stress is still too much, Dr. Ferrance advises getting professional help. "There tends to be a bit of a bias in our culture towards toughing it out and handling things ourselves, especially when it comes to emotional or psychological stuff. The fact is though, that even the best heart surgeon in the world would be an idiot if he or she tried to do surgery on themselves," he says. "Even though I'm a trained psychologist with over 25 years of experience, I still have my own psychologist that I work with on a regular basis. None of us, no matter how smart or talented, has objectivity into our own situation or behaviors. Make use of the professionals and the tools that will make your life easier, happier and more productive."
For a related article on workplace stress, CLICK HERE.