Stressful situations are often unavoidable in the work environment. They can be due to many reasons; high workload, tight deadlines, not hitting budgets, lack of resources, differences of opinions of colleagues, the list goes on.
The stressful situations may or may not be in your control, depending on your role in the company. When most of us find ourselves in stressful situations, we deal with it to the best of our ability. Often not really knowing what the stress is doing to our body.
How stress can affect your health, mentally and physically
As we know, stress in today’s society can be caused by many things: our work, relationships, financial situation, messages and notifications on our phone, or even getting stuck in a traffic jam when we are late. Whereas hundreds of years ago our stress would have been caused by being chased by a tiger and having to run away in order to survive.
To run away fast from the tiger, our body needs a lot of energy. In these fearful situations, our body has to secrete hormones like adrenaline or cortisol to help us move and get away quickly. All energy is taken from the body, including the stomach (where it may have been digesting food), and it directs the energy to the heart, lungs and legs, allowing us to run as fast. We would be in a very alert state and would breathe faster to get more oxygen. When we are in this state, it’s called the parasympathetic nervous system or ‘fight and flight’ response.
Stress in today’s day and age
Our body doesn’t know the difference between the stresses of today, and those from hundreds of years ago. The body is not designed to be in the fight and flight response on a regular basis, as it uses so much energy and normally, you would take time to recover. For example, if you were lucky enough to have escaped the tiger, you would be curled up in a heap catching your breath and recovering.
So think for a moment, if your body is in this stressed state on a regular basis, this is not only very tiring for the body but also damaging, as you are not giving yourself the time to rest, recover and repair itself. We call this opposite state the “rest and digest” response, or sympathetic nervous system.
Stress will show up in our mind and body in many ways. You may feel anxious, scared, fearful and or tired. Physical signs may also show, like a racing heart, stomach pains, tension in the head, quickened breath, loss of appetite etc. Now that you know why you have the physical symptoms when you are stressed, you can see why it is has negative effects on the body, both mentally and physically.
If stress can’t be avoided, are there ways we can manage it?
While stress can’t always be avoided, the good news is there are ways we can manage it and make it easier. Becoming more mindful is a really great way to manage stress. In the majority of cases, it is our mind that controls our stress levels. The way you choose to see or look a situation can really affect the way you feel about it and respond to it.
Staying present and not thinking about the past or the future (like, how well you will do a task, or if you will make the deadline etc), will help you to stay relaxed. Not worrying, not thinking negatively. Instead, just think about the task at hand.
Here are some great tips to help you stay present and mindful in the workplace, and, in your life in general.
3 Tips for Managing Stress at Work:
1. Become aware of your thoughts
Take notice if you are worrying about the future or the past. The past cannot be changed. There is no need to waste energy on it unless there is something you can rectify. If you’ve had a dispute with someone, you cannot change that, however, you can apologise to that person and move on
If you’re worried about the future, remember that the future may not even come, or it may turn out to be very different than you imagine. Worried about an upcoming presentation? Do all you can to prepare well, and there is no point worrying about the outcome as you will do best you can, and it will be as it will be.
2. Take some focused/ conscious breaths at regular intervals during your day
Just noticing when you inhale, and when you exhale. Even 2-3 breath cycles are enough to bring you into the present moment and to help you come out of your thinking mind for a moment and reconnect back into your body where your intuition lies.
3. Move your body
It’s proven that when we move and exercise, we release happy hormones, which helps to change our state of mind. So get up, stretch, go for a walk. Take your mind off the stress for a moment. More often than not you will come back feeling more refreshed and in a more positive state of mind, able to restart the task at hand.
These are simple enough tips to easily implement into your daily life, to help manage your stress. Let us know how they help and which ones work best for you!