Have you ever considered the effect of stress on health? Stress isn’t just a mental or psychological thing. It can profoundly affect our bodies in negative ways, and we might not even realize it. Work stress is so incredibly common but we don’t often think about the ways in which it damages our health.
We’re quick to blame impending head colds, general fatigue, or other malaise before believing that stress may be the culprit for our physical and mental woes. If you’re unable to identify the symptoms of stress, it’s much harder to manage it.
Here are just some of the ways in which stress can impact our health:
Physical Symptoms of Stress
- Muscle tension
- Irregular sleep
- Stomach and digestion issues
- Changes in sex drive
- General aches and pains
Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of Stress
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Lack of focus
- Irritability and anger
- Asocial tendencies
- Withdrawal from exercise
- Gravitation towards substances (alcohol, tobacco)
We can fall into these pits of physical and emotional destruction without even realizing that our job stress is at the heart of it all! Part of managing stress is not only recognizing when it’s affecting your health and behavior but also knowing the strategies that will help you mitigate that stress and minimize unhealthy responses.
When you have healthy habits in the face of workplace stress, you’ll find yourself not only more level-headed through it all, but you’ll find yourself in good health no matter what life throws at you. These are just some strategies for fighting stress.
5 Healthy Strategies for Fighting Workplace Stress
1) Steer clear of junk foods.
I don’t know about you, but I’m at my weakest food-wise when I’ve had a stressful day. It’s so tempting to hit the vending machine, indulge in fast food, or even order a fancy, sugar-rich coffee just to satisfy something in ourselves that just wants to feel better. We want to snack on chips and sweets. We want to binge on ice cream and all things fattening.
Resisting temptation is tough. It’s also necessary if you want to fight stress the healthy way. Junk food is only going to bring your mood further down when it brings on insulin spikes and neglects to give you the energy that you need to power through stressful times. You’re going to find yourself feeling drained and lethargic. You're likely going to regret it, too!
2) Hit the gym.
When stress has you feeling overwhelmed, the last thing you probably feel like doing is going to the gym. It seems like a waste of your time to work out, but it’s worth the effort to exercise anyway, even if it’s only for half an hour. Exercise not only acts as a mood and energy booster, but it can clear your mind, too.
When you feel stress at the office, start your day with exercise. The heightened energy and focus it gives you will carry you through the day.
3) Stay on your sleep schedule.
While you feel swamped at the office, the temptation may be to shave a few hours off of your sleep schedule so that you can cram in a few extra hours of work. Don’t make that mistake. Your sleep is crucial to your health. It allows your brain and heart to renew itself from damage and stress (reducing blood pressure and risk of heart disease, by the way), while also recharging you for a new day.
If you skip sleep for work, you’re not going to be producing the best work possible. At the very least, you’ll likely find your focus slipping. Tasks will take longer, stress will rise, and your frustrations will grow. Prioritize your own health and you’ll find your stress decreasing, even if it seems like things aren’t getting done as quickly.
4) Get some fresh air.
Nothing kills stress like time spent in Mother Nature. If your workspace is bringing out the worst in you, take a break. Whether it’s a short walk or a daily run, time spent outdoors can instantly reduce stress levels. You don’t even have to carve out extra time to do it, either. Take your lunch and eat it outside instead of at your desk or in a restaurant.
Breathing in fresh air or sitting on a park bench for a little while will give you time to breathe and relax more than you realize.
Stress tends to make us not want to have much to do with anyone else. Socialization, however, can be a valuable stress reliever. You don’t even have to be venting or unburdening yourself in order to reduce your stress. Just the act of being with other human beings—a spouse, friends, even colleagues—and spending time with them outside of work can dramatically improve your mood and stress levels. Talk, laugh, and focus on decompressing. We’re social creatures by nature and that interaction is crucial for our well-being.
Follow these steps and you'll be well on your way to managing your stress in a healthy manner—leading to a more fulfilling and productive life at work and home.
What strategies do you employ to manage stress? Share them in the comments.