The alarm buzzes next to your head and ends the peaceful slumber you were once enjoying. As you roll over to shut-off the loud alarm, you glance at your phone to see a list of work emails waiting for you. Almost immediately, your breathing increases, your heart starts pounding, and your muscles tighten. But, you may not know these are symptoms of stress.
“Your response to the demands of the world determines your stress level.”Mayo Clinic Staff
Many people experience stress throughout their life. But for some, stress is short lived. For others, these symptoms are more persistent and have common triggers. Like the analogy above, this reaction prompts your brain to get ready to fight or flee the scene.
Your body doesn’t understand that your work emails are not physically going to hurt you. Yet, your emotional response signals your brain to release a hormone called cortisol. When exposed to triggers throughout the day, your body is always releasing cortisol. These hormones invoke the “fight or flight” response of your central nervous system.
Over time, the long-term release of cortisol in your body does affect your health. The Health and Safety Executive stated that in 2007-2008 illness due to stress generated 13.5 million missed work days. Furthermore, lost work days costs businesses around $4 billion every year.
For this reason, you need to know what can elicit work-related stress and control it. By managing your stress, you encourage a healthy mental and physical state.
In-Depth Look at Common Triggers
The list below is the most common activators that you can experience at any given time while at work.
Taking on more work and clients means stability and income. But, if you take on more than you are accustom to, then you become overwhelmed and stressed. Make sure you agree to tasks and terms that you are capable of handling. Do not over commit yourself.
Too Many Priorities
Having many clients or projects that each have urgent needs or requests can lead to stress.
For one thing, it is impossible for everyone to be the number one priority. Ensure that you set clear goals and communicate how you are prioritizing work. You may need to compromise deadlines with your boss or client.
Demanding Clients or Boss
We have all experienced working with someone who requires a little more attention. Having a demanding client or boss can create a stressful environment. In these situations, you will likely work longer hours.
Or, there are deadlines or expectations asked of you that are not realistic. For this scenario, you need to communicate clear and achievable timelines. Delegate to staff if you have the resources.
Lack of Control Over Work
The way you do your work may differ than your employees. But you need to understand for quality work to get completed on time you have to let go of your control over it.
By not letting go and worrying, you are making a recipe for more stress. Let your team manage the tasks how they deem fit so as long as the work gets done and done right.
Not Having a Work-Life Balance
With heavy workloads, work will overflow into personal time and home life. When your job requires travel, you tend to spend less time at home. Or, your employer or business has an inflexible work schedule. Many factors make this balance difficult.
One solution is to shut down your workday at the same time each day. No matter where you are, you should stop working at a set time. Use that stopping point to be with your family. Work can wait until the next day.
And use your vacation time to plan family vacations.
Side Effects on Your Body and Health
As with every action, there is a consequence. In the case of stress producers, ignoring them will cause health risks. Look out for some of these physical and mental warning signs. If you experience any of these symptoms, you are facing chronic stress.
- Loss of motivation to work
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating on tasks
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Stomach issues
- Loss of sex drive
When the symptoms above are not addressed and continue to occur, you are at risk for more severe side effects. As mentioned earlier, constant exposure to cortisol takes a toll on your body. Your body responding to stress day after day can lead to implications such as:
- Increased risk of heart attack
- High blood pressure
- For women, missed menstrual cycles
- Weakened immune system
- Fertility issues
- Erectile dysfunction
Tips to Manage Stress at Work to Stay Healthy
Once you have identified stress, you easily can manage it. To do so, this requires knowing your work triggers. Below are helpful tips that you should follow.
Keep a Journal
By writing down your sensations felt when stressed, you’ll be in better control. The journal will help you keep tally all those pain-points and your reactions to them.
Eat Right and Exercise
Aerobic exercise is the best outlet to relieve stress. You can do this by walking, running, biking, or swimming. In fact, exercise releases chemical endorphins that invoke positive feedback in your body. When you pair exercise with healthy food, these two factors will strengthen your body and your mind.
Talk to Co-Workers, Friends or Family
Having an outlet to talk about stressful situations is essential. If you do not speak to someone, those negative feelings will consume you. As a result, your work performance will suffer. If you are not able to confide with someone you know, seek out a support group.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is when your body and mind can rest. Henceforth, your body can recharge after a long workday that is full of stress. Without a good night sleep, you increase the chance of eating bad foods.
According to Psychology Today, sleep deprivation decreases brain function. This dysfunction leads to unhealthy eating. So, you are depriving your body of proper recharging and refueling.
Avoid Sugary Foods and Refined Carbs
As stated, stress and lack of sleep will cause you to crave sugary foods and refined carbs. Stay away from the “feel-good” foods like ice cream and desserts as these will make matters worse. These foods may be comforting now, but you will crave more after that sugar crash. In the end, you will develop other health issues.
Add Humor to Stressful Situations
The saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” This statement couldn’t be more right. When situations get serious, find a way to make everyone laugh. In effect, this can lighten the mood and release endorphins.
Avoid Alcohol and Smoking
Another quick resort for stress is alcohol and nicotine. In contrast, these addictive habits do the opposite and increase levels of anxiety. Not to mention their effects are short-lived. You are more likely to smoke more and drink more to make you feel better.
In the long run, being able to understand stresses and what sparks them is life-changing. As the consequences are impeding health problems, the sooner you manage it, the better. By following these tips, you will be on your way to a happy, healthier, and stress-free work life.