Damages caused by stress are multiple, as much on the mental than on the physical aspects of our health. It has been proven that too much anxiety can lead to weight gain, delirium, sleep deprivation, anxiety and, further, burnout or depression.
While stress is the second most frequently reported work-related health problem in Europe and despite these dangerous side effects, less than half of large companies have actual measures in place to manage the risk faced by their employees. This explains why 50% of these workers find that anxiety is not well handled in their workplace.
As a matter of fact, as much as 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, whereas 73% of them regularly experience psychological symptoms coming from the same root.
This is probably due to the fact that, today, technology has us reachable at all times. As we’re always connected and accessible, wether through our phones, tablets or computers, work-related problems tend to follow all the way home. This makes it hard, if not impossible, to relax. Since this distressing feeling doesn’t dissipate when the day is over, the supposably short-term state turns into a chronic stress, extremely difficult to deal with and let go of.
That’s why we reunited some ways to help you cope with this stress, not only at work, but also back at home.
Schedule your day
Although day-scheduling comes as an evidence to some people, most of us fail at putting it into action. However, taking a few minutes everyday to write down your program can be beneficial for several reasons. First of all, as uncertainness often leads to a feeling of insecurity and discomfort, knowing exactly what you have to accomplish and when you have to do it will help in making the anxiety disappear.
This will also help in setting a boundary between your personal life and your work life, which is really important to find balance. The things you set up for yourself and look forward to do will come as the extra motivation needed in order to manage your time well. Indeed, by going through your to-do list, you’ll be able to fully enjoy these things when the time comes.
Plus, by following your progression and keeping track of your completed tasks, you’ll gain two things: the ability to relax by focusing on your short-term goals and not stressing about things too far ahead, at the same time as feeling encouraged to keep going on this road. Seeing you stuck to your schedule and accomplished all of the things you set out for yourself is a great way to feel good about yourself.
Ultimately, while you’re not dealing with the concerns you have and worrying about everything that needs to get done without any plan of action, you’ll feel like you have more time on your hands. Finally managing to clear your mind and let go of this overwhelming pressure will feel like a bowl of fresh air.
Most people find they don’t have enough time during the day to accomplish all of the things that need to get done. The feeling of not having sufficient time comes with the struggle of balancing priorities which leads, again, to a feeling of stress.
The first thing you can do to address this problem is to avoid as much as possible interruptions during the day. We can’t imagine how many times we get interrupted while at work and, most importantly, how much it can affect our concentration. In effect, each time our attention gets caught by something – or someone – we lose twice the time that would’ve been needed otherwise. That’s because we have to give in two things. First, the time necessary for the interaction, but also the one needed to get back to our task. As we can all witness how hard our « focus mode » can be to find, losing it to every new interaction shouldn’t come in as an option.
More importantly, these interruptions can seriously alter our sense of accomplishment. A study showed that people wouldn’t leave their job feeling like it was a successful day when they’d get interrupted frequently, in opposite to the ones that didn’t get these disturbances.
So, if you want to feel more productive, you have to avoid being disturbed or lose focus over extern factors: turn off your e-mail for a while, put your phone away, close your door, put earplugs on… do whatever you have to do to shut out these intrusions during the time you need to. You will soon realize that your achievements make you feel more successful at the end of each day.
Don’t forget to take a break
The time you’re not productive actually has a big impact on the time you are. That’s why when you feel that your productivity is going down, you should take a short break.
Better yet, you should be scheduling regular breaks into long periods of concentration. Even Henry Ford, who was all about productivity and efficiency, recognized the power of time off. He noted scheduling it in and enforcing it actually increased output and results.
Go for a walk, clear your head, take deep breaths, throw some cold water on your face, whatever you need. But don’t go on your phone, on Facebook or surf the web. The goal here is to really disconnect during that period.
Besides, you should absolutely not spend this downtime feeling guilty about what you should be accomplishing. You really have to empty your head, as letting go for a few minutes will allow you to start back with a clear mind and rested feeling.
If you tend to easily get absorbed by your obligations or other current files and to forget about that salutary break, there are some software that are designed to help you with that. You can check out Time Out for Mac or Work Rave for PC : they both offer to block your computer screen at regular intervals to force you to take that time off, even suggesting some stretching and relaxing exercises. But don’t worry, if you don’t want to be interrupted in the middle of a task, you can always take back control on your screen.
Friends at work
Sometimes, it may seem like your co-workers are just a bunch of people you’re forced to deal with or just one more thing you have to accept and put up with during the time you’re at work.
But they can actually be way more than that. They might be the greatest way to feel better and happier at work, therefore more engaged in what you’re doing.
It’s true that when you get along with your collaborators, considering them as friends by your side, any situation appears easier to deal with, allowing the connection to your company to grow stronger.
Also, in the same way your mood gets better when your around friends, you’ll be able to be more productive, thus less stressed.
Here’s a few stats from officevibe showing you why having friends at work is so important :
Now that we’ve seen the things you can do while you’re at work, let’s see how to relieve the pressure when the day’s finally done.
We talked about work-life balance and the importance of being able to separate these two, especially now that with technology, you’re being reachable 24/7.
Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system.
That’s why having the ability to « unplug » your mind from work-related issues will help a lot in relieving this stress. While it might be difficult to do this receiving all the live events, e-mails, notification and actions that are happening at the time, the first step to take would be to turn off your mailbox and notifications on your phone. That way, you won’t be able to stress about something that’s not even there yet.
In addition to this, you might always be leaving work with the feeling that there was more you could’ve done during the day, only getting you to be preoccupied for the night. What you can do in answer of this situation is to take a few minutes every day before leaving work to make a short list of what you have to do in the morning. Knowing exactly your plan for the morning after might help you feeling like you’re in a good place to leave and to free your mind for the night.
Eat right and sleep
Being stress can cause a lot of health damages just by the feeling itself, but also by the actions it leads to. In effect, when we’re stressed, we’re more inclined to eating badly, abusing drugs or alcohol, which leads to stressing your system even more.
In order to feel your best, you should be eating healthy foods while following a balanced diet. If you want more advice on which eating habits you should be adopting to be more productive at work, just take a look on our other article about foods for productivity.
Furthermore, you have to be careful not to enter in the vicious circle of stress-sleep deprivation. Indeed, when the human body feels pressured, the brain reaction is to overthink: having trouble letting go of your thoughts will lead to poor sleeping habits. Then, when you’re sleep deprived, you’re more stressed, when you’re stress, you’re sleep-deprived, and so on.
To be able to calm down, you should try to empty your head as much as you can through exercises such as meditation. Like we said before, it’s also important not to think about the things that make you feel uncomfortable before going to sleep. Let go of your devices, focus on your respiration, read a book, breathe in and out, do whatever works for you to free your spirit and prepare it to sleep.
Another way to let go of the pressure is to practice a physical activity. This one is well known and talked about all the time, making it appear like the solution to everything. It probably is, as it can help you bettering your condition no matter what.
Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression. It also releases endorphin, which triggers a positive feeling in the body.
Moreover, it has been proven that exercise reduce stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of desperation, boost self-esteem and improve sleep, all of it leading to an overall state of happiness.
Now, we know taking all of these changes might be a little much, but if you manage to add even some of them in your routine, your work-related stress will fade progressively. You will feel more productive, along with a positive state of mind, calmer body and better mood.