Are you stressed at work?

Do you find yourself getting anxious when you’re working, whether in an office, on trips, or perhaps in your home office? Here are some helpful hints on how to reduce your stress levels, whatever your field of work happens to be.

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s natural reaction to pressurized situations, to prepare for danger. It sends adrenalin coursing through our veins to increase our heart rate and breathing, making us more alert and focussed - great for making a superb presentation or performing well in a meeting. Originally designed to afford us extra energy to flee from predators, a build-up of “fight or flight”, produced by excessive stress, can have a negative effect on both our bodies and our minds. Working long hours, with many tight deadlines, can have damaging results, leaving you feeling anxious, tense, tired and irritable, even affecting your digestion.

1) Walkabout 

Exercise is a great way of relieving stress. Staying in the same position, often sitting at a desk looking at a computer screen, and typing, or looking at a smaller tablet, puts extra pressure on our backs and necks. If we’re feeling stressed, this tension will be more marked. Leave your desk – the focus of stress - get up and walk around, just for five minutes. Stretch your muscles or go outside for some fresh air, taking deep breaths; even schedule regular breaks. And activities like walking, running, swimming or dancing, have huge psychological as well as physical benefits. Even non-aerobic exercise, such as some forms of yoga, which focuses on both mind and body, can be extremely helpful, as can meditation.

2) Talk to someone

Feeling stressed is not a sign of weakness. It affects many people, but often goes unspoken because we feel embarrassed. If you can talk to someone about how you’re feeling, and how the situation at work is affecting you, it will help to both calm and reassure you, and to look at things in perspective. Perhaps you’ll realise that one particular aspect of your job is especially challenging and that you need more support or guidance, or that you’d prefer to work in another field. Or maybe a colleague or manager is putting you under an unfair amount of pressure. If you don’t have a confidante at work, talk to a friend. And if you work from home, meet a friend for coffee – a change of scene will always help.

3) Blue sky

Does your desk or work station have a view to outside? Just being able to see some sky (even if isn’t blue) and some sun, if you’re lucky, can boost our creativity and make us feel happier, rather than being enclosed by walls and artificial lighting. Ask your manager if you can move to a spot with natural light and a view – even if it’s just of another building.

4) Eat well

We all know that a balanced diet is key to being healthy, with low sugar and high protein, and this also goes for stress. Eating small, healthy meals (you can find easy recipes here) helps you to maintain an even level of blood sugar – too little can make you feel anxious and irritable, while an excess of sweet foods can make you feel lethargic. Omega-3 helps the brain to work better – sources include salmon, mackerel and sardines, flax, and walnuts. And obviously olive oil is part of any healthy eating plan. Cutting down on alcohol is a sensible move.

5) Walk away

If the level of stress you experience at work is affecting other key aspects of your life – your relationships with family and friends, your health – then consider changing location. Would it help if you could telework some days, this is something your company offers? Perhaps it’s worth suggesting. With today’s technology, it’s easy to work remotely, whether from your own home, or another convenient location. If that isn’t an option, then you could start looking for another job, or another type of work – many networking websites have listings targeted to your field of work. 

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