Written by Debra Alper
Many of us pride ourselves on having a strong work ethic, seeking new challenges and opportunities at work and actively looking for ways to advance in our careers. However, if our physical and mental health begin to suffer, or our relationships bear the burden of our mounting stress, it is time to honestly assess the toll that workplace stress is having on our lives.
According to a 2007 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), three-quarters of Americans list work as a significant stressor, and more than 50% report that stress negatively impacts their productivity. The link between stress and physical health has long been documented, with headaches, fatigue, and stomach ailments among the most common somatic complaints. Less frequently reported, but just as pressing, are the effects stress has on our mental health. Irritability, anger, diminished concentration, and lack of motivation are just a few of the nasty effects of an overload of stress.
In today’s work climate, dialing down stress may seem harder than ever. With email and cell phones providing non-stop access to work, how is one to cope???
Here are a few tips:
1) Institute tech-free times!
While it may make you more productive, being able to access your work 24 hours a day definitely has its drawbacks. Namely, the sanctity of home time can be eroded. Though many of us can’t go off the grid completely every night, it’s wise to institute some boundaries. Carving out some time when all tech is off limits (e.g., during dinner time) will enable you to be more present in your leisure time, as well as more attentive to your work when you return to it.
2) Take breaks
Giving yourself short breaks throughout the day to stretch, take a quick walk, or interact with others has been shown to decrease tension, and can actually make you more efficient at your work. Resist the urge to work through lunch!
3) Self care
Unfortunately, self care behaviors such as exercising, eating and sleeping enough are often the first to go when work demands increase. The opposite should be true! Research shows without a doubt, maintaining a healthy physical state protects your mental health and allows you to be maximally productive. So prioritize those self care activities for yourself and for your work!
4) Ask for help
Finally, if tips like the ones above are not enough to keep stress at bay, you may wish to seek help from a mental health professional. Seeking help when you need it from those who trained to provide it can go a long way toward managing stress.