Work isn’t always fun; sometimes deadlines are looming, inboxes are exploding, and the work keeps piling up. But if you’re starting to dread going to work every day, or work is all you think about before falling asleep at night, then it’s time to take action and follow a few simple steps to deal with stress and avoid complete burnout.
Stress is Physical
The stress that we feel brings about real, physical changes in our bodies. In the short term stress can compromise the immune system, lead to weight gain, and interrupt sleep, leading to drowsiness and fatigue. Long term, chronic stress can accelerate the ageing process and increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease. By taking better care of our bodies we can deal with the physical effects of stress and even buffer against stress’s psychological effects. Consider doing the following to help ease your stress levels.
- Exercise. The benefits of 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise are huge. Whether it’s jogging, cycling, or even walking at a brisk pace, the benefits of exercise for your body and wellbeing are second to none. Your heart will benefit as will your waistline. Exercise will also cause your body to release endorphins that will boost your mood and mental state, helping to lift some of the mental weight on your shoulders.
- Eat real food. When things get really hectic diet can be one of the first things to go out the window. But, it’s important to resist the temptation to raid the office cookie jar and eat fast food at your desk while responding to e-mails. Processed foods are full of sugar and other ingredients that will send your energy levels and moods on a rollercoaster ride, not to mention that they can also lead to diabetes and heart disease. Instead try and eat good, whole foods. If you don’t know what an ingredient is (methylparaben anyone?) don’t eat it. For snacking at the office try fruit, carrot sticks, and nuts. You’ll be giving your body and mind the nutrients they need to handle your hefty workload.
- Sleep. This one sounds tricky because one of the effects of stress and anxiety is insomnia, so, if you’re lying awake at night worrying about all the things you have to do tomorrow how are you supposed to get enough sleep? First, make time for it. You’ll need 8 hours of sleep to be rested and at your best. A fresh, sharp mind is essential to handling work’s challenges. To help yourself fall asleep quickly and get a good night’s sleep it’s important to cut off screen time an hour before bedtime and do something relaxing like read or listen to quiet music.
A huge part of stress is mental. When e-mails, meetings, to-dos, and deadlines start piling up and causing stress it affects your thinking, mood, and your relationships with coworkers, friends, and family. To make matters worse when you’re stressed and not thinking clearly your performance can suffer leading to… more stress.
- Context. Yes, your job is important. Whether you’re working just to pay the bills or you’re on the fast track to the corner office, your job is part of who you are, but, it’s not the end all be all of your existence. Consider volunteering or working with an organization supporting a cause that is important to you. Do something that you find fulfilling, whether it’s spending time in nature or taking a class, to remind yourself that there are other important things in the world and in life besides jobs and careers.
- Be social. If you’ve been putting in long hours at the office chances are you haven’t had a lot of time to catch up with friends and enjoy some good company. Friends are the family that we choose and it’s been shown that people with more friends and stronger social bonds are happier. Plus, having good times with friends is a great way to get your mind off the things that stressing you out, or a great opportunity to talk about the things that are bothering you to someone who will listen.
- Be grateful. Maybe you just got passed over for a promotion, were caught off guard and unprepared in a meeting, and are still trying to win the US Mega Millions, but take some time to focus on the things that are going well and that you are grateful for. Really. Take a moment and make a list of five, ten, as many things as you can think of that you are happy about in your life right now. Not only will it be easier than you think to come up with a long list of positives, but you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
Use these tools to get on top of the stress that’s keeping you from performing your best and achieving your goals, or use them to keep a bad situation from getting worse while you come up with an exit strategy. Whether stress and its affects are holding you back from being the best you can be, or if stress is salt in the wound of a job that you’re not passionate about, nothing positive will come from suffering its effects.
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