Stress is something that many of us experience at work. But if you are dealing with responsibilities or excessive demands that are causing your stress levels to rise, it is important to make changes to stop them from becoming overwhelming.
When our stress levels become too high, they can have a serious toll on our health and wellbeing. Stress can be incredibly difficult to leave at the office at the end of a day, and has the potential to impact on all areas of your life, including your relationships, sleep, diet and mood.
If you feel that the symptoms of stress are starting to affect your quality of life, it is important that you plan strategies to tackle the problem rather than ploughing on regardless.
There are a number of stress management techniques that you can introduce into your working day, so that you can stop stress from having a negative impact on you, both in and outside of work.
1) Emotional freedom technique (EFT)
EFT can be seen as a needleless form of acupuncture, where you tap specific energy points on the body in order to relieve stress and restore your energy.
With EFT, you focus on one thing that is causing you to feel stressed, rather than numerous problems. As you concentrate on the issue, you tap on one of the twelve energy points that are on your body, three to seven times. These points include the eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, the chin, collar bone, under the arm and on the top of the head.
You continue to tap energy points until you start to feel your stress levels subside. Once you are calmer, you then think of an uplifting and self-affirming phrase, and tap your energy points once again as this can help you to feel more positive and re-energised.
2) Guided meditation apps
When we are stressed, our ‘fight or flight’ instinct is triggered. This causes our blood pressure to rise, our blood flow to increase and our breathing to quicken. Meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm, etc. can help you to slow these responses right down.
Guided meditation apps use techniques such as breath work, visualization and mindfulness to help you reduce your stress levels. They also give you the opportunity to observe the impact that stress triggers are having on your thoughts and feelings. You then have the time and space to reframe your responses to these stress triggers so that they don’t take up so much of your energy or drive how you go on to behave.
3) Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
When you get stressed, your body can start to become tense. With PMR, you work on removing this tension that you are holding in your body by contracting and releasing different muscle groups.
You focus on one muscle group at a time, starting with the forehead and working your way down, or vice versa. Different muscle groups to work through include your forehead, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms and hands, buttocks, legs and feet.
Before you start tensing and relaxing the muscle groups, you should take a few minutes to focus on deep breathing. Then you tense and hold the first muscle group for 15 seconds, and slowly release for 30 seconds as you exhale.
Before you move onto other muscle groups, you should spend some time breathing deeply, focusing on your relaxed muscles and your relaxed state of mind.
4) Deep breathing
Our breathing pattern can become quick and shallow when our stress levels rise. By focusing on getting your breath back to normal, you can send a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
Take in a slow, deep breath for five to eight seconds and as you do this, visualise filling your lungs from the bottom to top. Then hold the breath for five to eight seconds, and exhale for the same amount of time, imagining that you are emptying your lungs. As you focus on this deep breathing technique, feel the rise and fall of your breath in your abdomen rather than in your chest.
5) Plan your days in advance
Staying in control of you workload can help to prevent an unhealthy build-up of stress. Don’t let the number of tasks you have to complete overwhelm you, as when your stress hormones are activated, this can have a detrimental effect on your concentration, preventing you from carrying out your job effectively.
At the start of a week or day, create a checklist of tasks that need to be completed by priority, where you break down bigger projects into more manageable activities.
Make sure that you give yourself enough time to complete the tasks rather than setting yourself unrealistic deadlines, and add in regular breaks to stop yourself from burning out. After you finish each task, give yourself a little reward, even if it’s as simple as crossing the task off your checklist.
During your working day, try not to get too distracted by additional tasks such as emails or ad-hoc demands. Instead, make sure you respond to these additional requests at designated times in the day so that they don’t disrupt the progress of your projects and cause your stress levels to spike.
6) Take breaks and leave your desk from time-to-time
Taking a few minutes away from your desk can give you the chance to step away from your stresses. Try to go outdoors and focus on what you can see, hear, smell and feel to clear your mind so that you head back to your desk feeling re-energized.
If you can’t head outside, even quick breaks to the water station can be a way to manage your stress levels. You may also want to put your headphones in and listen to one or two songs to help you relax and focus on something that you enjoy.
When its lunch time, don’t be tempted to spend your break at your desk as this won’t give you the opportunity to rest and recharge. Instead, you could spend time with your work colleagues, as this can be a great way to let off steam and unwind. You may also want to go for a walk, which can de-stress your mind and your body. Also opt for healthy lunches that increase your energy and give you sustainable nutrients to get you throughout the day rather than going for comfort foods.
7) Make changes to your working life
If you find that your stress levels remain high regardless of the steps you put in place to reduce them, think about what else you can potentially change, such as your working hours, your job role or the organisation you work within. As stress can have such a big impact on your quality of life, it is important that you take the right steps to address it so that you can spend your working days happily challenged as opposed to overwhelmed and exhausted.
You can also access psychological support for stress to stop it from worsening and impacting on your physical and emotional health. Through counselling and the use of therapeutic methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, you can learn how to tackle symptoms, and address underlying causes and triggers for your stress, so that you can resume a more positive and fulfilling way of life.