Stress - we have all experienced it at some point in time. That chest tightening, lump in throat, head exploding feeling that you get when things are reaching critical mass. This heightened sense of anxiety is also what scientists call our bodies "flight or flight" response, when the unconscious mind takes over and delivers a load of cortisol and adrenaline to help you fight or flee from a dangerous situation.
Short term stress or a brief flutter of anxiety (which can also be brought on by caffeine), can sometimes improve our performance at work, however chronic stress, that constant state of anxiety, can lead to severe illness including depression, weight gain, insomnia and high blood pressure.
So what can we do to help keep stress under control at work?
Often the factors contributing to stress in the workplace are outside of our control. Be it your hyped up boss who suffers from a severe case of small man syndrome, to those un-appreciative clients who never see reason.
Here are my top tip:
- Take a step back - Sounds like an odd first step doesn't it but read on and you'll understand. You need to step back and re-imagine your approach to stressful situations and in this process, find a greater sense of balance in your workplace. Women are natural overachieves. We are always trying to be all things to everybody, but if you can step back and reflect on the task at hand or what is making you feel stress, you just might realise that it is simply not worth it.
- Choose acceptance and reflection - Don't let anxiety dictate your state of mind. Accept what you can achieve in a day. For some that might be be clearing your inbox, for others it might be replying to 5 emails of 100. You set your own expectations, so take a moment to think about these and accept what is realistic. If you don't meet your own expectations, take a moment to reflect on what you have achieved, and stop being so hard on yourself!
- Meditation - I love this app: Headspace. It allows me 10 minutes time out each day to reset my intentions for the day and strip out any insignificant details. 10 minutes at lunch or morning tea will go a long way to help cool those anxiety pains.
- Take a walk - Listen to your Headspace mediation app while out on a stroll. The fresh air and increase in oxygen to your blood will do wonders for your state of mind and productively to get through the afternoon workload. A change of space and a change of pace will help you reflect on any stressors in the office and give you perspective.
- Loosen up and breath - Emotional and mental stress can lead to physical tension. This often builds up in our temples, neck, shoulders, hips and pelvis. If you find yourself in a state of tension, stand up, take 5 deep breaths in and out of your nose, release your pen or anything else you might be holding on to and exhale all the way through to your toes.
- Show some compassion - It's easy to snap at your co-workers or ignore everyone in the office when to workload is heavy. But taking the time to clearly communicate with your co-workers, or to take 5 and involve yourself in a conversation, will make you feel better and may even help you get more things done. If you show compassion you will receive it in return.
"There is no better exercise for the heart and the mind than reaching down and lifting people up."
We all know that stress won't help anyone or anything. All to often we let it creep in and dominate the workplace. Be conscious, be kind to yourself and take the time understand your stressors so you can show it the door and make sure that everyday, you reflect on what you have achieved rather than what you haven't.