Why it’s important to reduce stress in the workplace
Most adults spend a tremendous amount of time at work. Work gives people more than an income. It provides a sense of purpose, social connection, identity and an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally – at least in theory.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal part of life. It is to be expected and most of the time it is a passing experience. Stress is how the brain and body responds to any demand (NIMH, 2017). Our experience of stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress motivates people to get going, push through procrastination and resistance and get things done. Negative stress on the other hand, can be chronic with no relief in sight. It can lead to burn out, long-term health problems and anxiety disorders. At the extreme end, it can even provoke an issue that might necessitate essential therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy.
Chronic work stress
Naturally, stressful situations, such as being yelled at by your boss, can be experienced as negative stress. Negative stress activates the “fight/flight/freeze” response. The “fight/flight/freeze” response is a natural and automatic reaction to perceived threats in the environment. This response is key to our survival when our lives are in danger but at work, the “fight/flight/freeze” response can be a problem.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the long-term activation of the stress-response system and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, can disrupt almost all your body’s processes.
This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
• Digestive problems
• Heart disease
• Sleep problems
• Weight gain
• Memory and concentration impairment (Mayo Clinic, 2016)
Stress management at work
1. Take a few minutes in the morning to be quiet and meditate: sit or lie down and be with yourself, gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of nature, or take a slow, quiet walk.
2. Decide not to listen to music or podcasts and be with yourself instead.
3. While sitting at your desk or keyboard, etc., monitor your body sensations and tension levels and consciously attempt to relax and let go of excess tension.
4. Leaving your work environment at lunch can be helpful.
5. Use the everyday cues from your environment, such as the telephone ringing or turning on the computer, as reminders to “centre” yourself.
6. Take some time at lunch or during your break to share with close associates. Choose topics that are not work-related.
7. At the end of the workday, retrace your activities of the day, acknowledging and congratulating yourself for what you’ve accomplished. Make a list for tomorrow.
8. As you walk to your car, pay attention to your walking, the fresh air, the cold or warmth of your body. Listen to the sounds outside the office. Can you walk without feeling rushed?
9. When you get into your car, sit quietly and consciously make the transition from work to home. Take a moment to simply be. Enjoy it for a moment. Like most of us, you’re heading into your next full-time job: home!
10. When you pull into the driveway or park on the street, take a minute to come back to the present. Orientate yourself to being with your family or household members.
Work environments that optimises good stress
Coping with negative stress effectively is essential to your health and sense of well-being. Maximising the benefits of good stress is equally important. Although there are some circumstances in our lives that we have no ability to anticipate nor control, usually, people usually have the ability to determine their vocation.
When it comes to stress in the workplace, choose your employer wisely. According to the Telegraph, Britain’s best place to work, is the travel website Expedia. By in large, ratings by employees were stupendous.
“Strong, friendly work culture. Work life balance is seen as very important by all. Very supportive management team. So many perks! Free breakfast once a month, travel and health benefits, etc.,” a London-based finance manager at the firm told Luxury Lifestyle Magazine.
People who are employed in a positive work environment where they feel valued, have opportunities for advancement and receive recognition are more likely to experience the benefits of positive versus negative stress. Most adults spend a tremendous amount of time working. Our experiences at work affect the rest of our lives. Managing stress at work will positively impact precious time with friends and family.