Ten Ways To Beat Unhealthy Stress At Work
By Margaret Hansen, JobsInDE.com
Have you ever met someone who thrives on stress and pressure? How do they do it? Perhaps they practice stress-busting activities that have been proven to relieve stress. Here's a list to get you started:
1. Ask Yourself 'Is This Going to Matter to Me in Five Years?'
No matter the situation, it's always good to step back and perform this reality check. Most of the time, your answer will be no.
2. Don't Neglect Your Family or Your Social Calendar
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), individual and situational factors can help to reduce the effects of stressful working conditions. They include keeping:
- A balance between work and family or personal life
- A support network of friends and coworkers
- A relaxed and positive outlook
3. Share This Article with Your Boss or HR Department
According to NIOSH, companies with organizational characteristics associated with both healthy, low-stress work and high levels of productivity employ the following habits:
- Recognition of employees for good work performance
- Opportunities for career development
- An organizational culture that values the individual worker
- Management actions that are consistent with organizational values
4. Beware of Overtime
- How much do you actually work?
- Do you check your email and voice mail even while on vacation?
- Do you use up all of your vacation time or do you always have a large balance at the end of the year?
According to the American Institute of Stress, the average American work week is 47 hours (1999), with 20 percent of that same group working 49 hours per week. Don't fall into the trap of overdoing it and make sure you have enough time for relaxation.
5. Laugh (a Lot)
No, really. Melanie King, author of Surviving Stress at Work: Understand It, Overcome It (Trafford Publishing, 2005), notes that laughing not only lowers stress hormones and thus improving the immune system, it also helps to:
- Exercise your diaphragm and your abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles
- Increase the killer blood cells that destroy tumors and viruses
- Increase Gamma-interferon (disease-fighting proteins), T-cells (a major part of the immune response) and B-cells that make the antibodies that destroy disease
- Increase salivary immunoglobulin A, which fights infections and any organisms entering through the respiratory tract
6. Visit a D.O.
Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-authors of YOU: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger (Harper-Collins, 2005), recommend (assuming you're in good health) visiting an osteopathic physician. Similar to the chiropractor, the D.O. practices a technique that can help relieve stress and the pain that often accompanies it.
7. Adopt a Furry Pet
A State University of New York at Buffalo study monitored stockbrokers who lived alone, had never opted to own a pet, had self-described stressful lives and were due to begin drug therapy (ACE inhibitors) for high blood pressure. Half the participants were assigned randomly to adopt a dog or cat from an animal shelter, while half remained pet-free. Although all had a lowered blood pressure due to the ACE inhibitors, under stressful conditions, those with pets experienced half the increase in blood pressure of those without pets.
8. Make Sure Your Job Is the Right Fit
According to The American Institute on Stress, it's not the job but the person-environment fit that matters. So, ask yourself:
- What stresses you out?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What is/isn't important to you?
Being aware of your preferences is a good way to avoid an overly stressful job situation. A balanced amount of authority and responsibility coupled with a sense of control can contribute to a healthier, less stressful job life.
9. Write It Down
Getting your frustrations out in a journal is not only a great creative outlet, it's healthy for your career (better to write it down than say it out loud at work) and it helps you identify your stress triggers and what beliefs you may hold that are feeding them. Use this insight to change your thought patterns into more healthy and productive ones.
10. Take Good Care of Your Physical Self
Drs. Roizen and Oz recommend getting six to eight hours of sleep per night. You can incorporate their advice into your lunch breaks:
- Take a walk, hit the gym or join a yoga class - the endorphins you release during this can counter your stress hormones
- Eat calming foods, such as turkey, dairy products and soy, which all contain tryptophan.
- Get a massage. It increases levels of the hormone oxytocin, which helps lower blood pressure and slows your breathing, easing stress.
- Meditate. Sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly 10 times, focusing only on your breathing.