ABCs of Stress Management at Work
Stress is on the rise and so prevalent around the world that some call it “our civilization’s disease”. Most of us, especially millennials and women, are stressed a lot of the time and this may result in physical illnesses like heart disease, depression, or anxiety.
What can we do to manage our mental health when we’re stressed at work? Try your ABCs -- Awareness; Breathing deeply; Change and Choice.
A. Awareness: Being aware of your stress symptoms and stress triggers.
1. Stress Symptoms such as:
· Physical symptoms: heart beating fast, sweaty palms, dizziness, tension.
· Emotions: anger, anxiety, crankiness, fear.
· Behavior: fidgeting, yelling, pacing back and forth.
· Mental state: inability to focus or having disoriented thoughts.
can act as a warning that you are getting anxious and need a time out.
2. Stress Triggers. What is causing you stress? Is it your workload, your boss Angry Aisha, your procrastination on the project, or Chatty Charlie who loves to interrupt you during your busiest times?
Knowing your stress triggers will help you better manage and prevent these from recurring as will be discussed further in Step C.
B. Breathe deeply: Hit the “pause” button and take a deep breath, several of them. Studies have shown that deep breathing helps slow our heart rate and calms us down by reducing the "fight-or-flight" response triggered by acute stress.
Having essential oils like lavender or sandalwood at your desk may also help as some research suggests aromatherapy scents can decrease stress hormones.
Meditation, yoga, and tai-chi are excellent for practicing relaxation and deep breathing techniques. Use modified versions of these while at work.
Go for a walk if you can, even if it just around the office. If you can’t, try a meditation app like Calm or listen to soothing music like this which helps lower our heart rate to a resting state: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dadisjcjqtk
If meditation or deep breathing is not your cup of tea, do something physical or fun to break out of those stress symptoms. Get out of your chair and move. Walk to the water cooler, do a mini dance session to your favorite song or listen to something uplifting. Play a game or watch a funny video to shake off those symptoms.
C. Change and Choice: Recognize what you can change and choose to control your response to what you can’t.
Which of the stress triggers were within your control? If you had procrastinated on a project and are now frantic with stress about the pending deadline, you can plan in advance to prevent that from happening again.
You can’t control what Angry Aisha does, but you can control how you respond to her. If you can speak to her about her managing style, then do so, but if that hasn’t worked in the past or if you don’t think she’ll be receptive to that type of feedback, then you can only control what you do and say, and how you feel. You can choose to get upset or choose to accept that this is the way she is. Recognize that being upset or stressed about it will only hurt yourself.
Choose to be empathic and give others the benefit of the doubt before getting angry at what they do. Choose to see the silver lining in the dark cloud. Choose to practice gratitude by appreciating that you have a regular pay cheque even if work is stressful. Choose to say “I get to go to work” instead of “I have to go to work”. Choose to say “Yes” to what will bring you joy and “No” to what will cause you stress. Choose to use positive self-talk by encouraging yourself instead of talking about how bad you are.
Implementing Change and Choice takes time and practice, just like any other skill, so be patient and try it one step at a time.