How to Cope with Work Stress

Work stress is a given in a workaday world. But too much of it can leave you feeling like you’re a rag squeezed dry.

Stress takes its toll

A constant state of stress leads to an unbalanced lifestyle, which can lessen productivity and affect our health and relationships. Stress also weakens our immune system, and makes us susceptible to sickness – colds, migraines, insomnia, back aches and more.

Over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk for heart disease.

Your mental health is important because it affects not just how you think, feel, and act, it also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, and recover from disappointments and hardships.

People with strong mental health can better cope with adversity and trauma, and are more resilient in difficult situations. They are able to maintain a positive outlook – remaining focused, flexible, and productive during good and bad times.

If you don’t have a healthy relationship with stress, try these coping methods.

Get physical

The mind and the body are intrinsically linked. When you improve your physical health, your mental and emotional well-being will improve as well.

Physical activity releases endorphins that lift your mood and provide added energy. Do simple and quick activities that raise your heart rate and make you sweat, such as parking far from your building so you can walk or taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator.

Add mindfulness exercises into your routine as well, such as yoga or meditation, which help relax your body, clear your mind, and focus your thoughts.

Change your diet

With our busy work days, it’s easy to fall into the convenient trap of fast food. An unhealthy diet can take a toll on your body, as well as your mind.

Cut back on stuff that adversely affect your mood, such as nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, or transfats; foods stuffed with sugar and chemical preservatives; refined carbs like white rice and white flour; and fried foods.

Substitute healthier options into your diet, such as wholegrain cereals or bread; low-fat foods rich in heathy fats like salmon, tuna and mackerel, all fatty fish rich in Omega-3; nuts like walnuts, cashews, and peanuts; leafy greens; and fresh fruit rich in antioxidants.

Get enough sleep

While 7-9 hours’ sleep may seem like a luxury, it is actually a necessity. Lack of sleep can adversely affect your mood and energy levels. Over the longrun, chronic sleep loss can damage your physical and mental health.

Take a break from stimulants such as the TV, phone, tablet, or computer at least two hours before bedtime. Try instead to relax: take a warm bath, listen to soothing music, or read before bed.

If you are on a shifting schedule, try to establish a sleep-wake cycle to set your body’s internal clock: expose yourself to a bright light when you wake up at night. After work, wear dark sunglasses on your way home, and use black-out curtains and a sleep mask to block out light.

Work smart

Set manageable goals: manage your time wisely by prioritizing your tasks according to what’s more important and urgent.

Stay organized to improve your efficiency and avoid unnecessary stress. The more you are able to get the sense that you are getting things done, the less stressed you will feel.

Instead of multi-tasking, focus on one task at a time. This “chunking” strategy gets things done better and faster.

Communicate clear expectations with your colleagues and boss, and delegate to others when needed.

Do something meaningful

Every one of us has his or her own reasons for getting out of bed in the morning. What are the things that you love to do? What makes you feel needed? What gives you a sense of purpose?

Striving toward realistic goals keeps us focused and motivated. Keeping in mind the things in our life that we are thankful for also helps in maintaining a positive outlook.

Take a break

Consider the refueling principle: stepping back to recharge the brain and body when things at work get too overwhelming.

Engage in non-work activities that you enjoy, such as a sport or a hobby, getting a massage or a mani-pedi, or even just hanging out with friends. Taking the foot off the pedal, so to speak, will give you a quick boost afterward.

To the same end, establish some work-life boundaries, such as unplugging your technology when at home, or not checking your email during certain hours.

Ask for help

Counteract the negative effects of job stress by building a solid support system from colleagues, friends, and family. Reach out to experts who can give you sound advice on managing stress in a healthy manner.

Effective stress management is not easy – but it’s not rocket science either. By following the tips above, you’ll maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health better, allowing you to lead a more productive and fulfilled life.

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