Workplace stress doesn't just reduce your productivity; it also has a negative impact on the relationships with your co-workers and even your boss. It's important to try to get a handle on your stress before it begins to affect your health, mood and overall outlook on life.
Most people don't realize that it's normal to have some stress. It releases hormones such as adrenaline, which increase your heart rate and give your body constant tension. This makes the body alert and engaged to do things such as make a deadline or get to a meeting on time. But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have a negative impact.
Constant stress can weaken your immune system and make you more likely to get sick. It can also make an existing health problem worse. Stress has also been shown to lead to long-term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure or lead to drug or alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism.
Everyone feels and responds to stress differently. It's important to recognize some typical signs of job stress which include headaches, trouble concentrating and having a short temper. Any of the methods below can have a significant impact on your overall emotional well-being.
• Focus on the here and now. If your mind is racing in 1,000 different directions, it's in a constant state of anticipation. Help your mind move to the here and now by paying attention to your breathing. Since you always breathe in the present moment, focusing on breathing makes you break your pattern of thought and brings you back to the present.
• Change the scenery. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, eat it outside or sit in the break room and enjoy lunch and a healthy conversation with your colleagues.
• Take breaks during the day. While we all have deadlines, it doesn't mean that all the work has to be completed at once. Take a few minutes to stretch your legs or go for a walk on your lunch hour. Take a second to look out the window and drink in the scenery.
• Be real. Set realistic deadlines to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Prioritize your workload and focus on the most important items first. In some situations, it's okay to say "no" or delegate a task to someone else.
• Create a balance. It's important to have a work-life balance to avoid undue stress and burnout. Set aside some time to go to the gym, engage in a hobby or socialize with friends.
These stress relievers release endorphins from the body that clean out built-up adrenaline. It's important to remember that no one is ever completely in control of a situation, but by bringing your mind and body into the here and now, it allows you to better cope with whatever is thrown your way.
Fernando DeTorrijos is the director of mindfulness programs in psychiatry and senior teacher at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.