Simply put, stress is a part of life, but it’s how we manage it that makes all the difference. Throughout our day we encounter many sources of stress whether it’s our environment, workplace, some unpredictable event, or dealing with our own fears and uncertainties. It is reported that 72 percent of U.S. workers say emotional stress is pervasive in the workplace and up to 60 percent of all absences are caused by stress.
According to Laura Ewing M.P.H., wellness coordinator, Long Beach Medical Center, “a key way in dealing with stress is identification.” In the U.S. work ranks among the top three sources of stress. Therefore, as Ewing says, “it’s important to be able to manage stress at work not only for our own well-being and longevity, but for our patients and families.”
First, it is important to distinguish between different types of stress, both good and bad. ”Not all stress is bad. Healthy levels of stress can help focus our attention and give us extra energy in times of need,” says Ewing. Eustress is beneficial in that we can use it to boost our performance if we harness our energy correctly. It is short-term, and can motivate and give us focused energy.
However, a type of stress that affects us more adversely is distress. Distress can decrease our overall performance leaving us unmotivated and can lead to illness, mental fatigue and emotional depletion. Even more serious is chronic stress which can lead to increased risk for heart disease, digestive problems, obesity, memory impairment, anxiety and depression.
It is incredibly important to manage our stress. “Learning to manage stress can help improve our personal sense of wellness, prevent worker fatigue and positively influence other employees and the work environment,” says Ewing.
So How Can We Manage Stress?
Here are seven strategies to help successfully manage stress at work and at home:
- Try walking, stretch breaks or dancing.
- Get outside! Just 5 minutes of outdoor activity can improve your mood and release stress more than a workout indoors.
- Stress-related illnesses affect the GI tract more than any other system in the body.
- Choose foods high in antioxidants, eat fruits and vegetables, keep hydrated, and exercise.
- Try to get 6 - 8 hours of sleep each night.
- If you stick to a regular sleep cycle, your body will get used to falling asleep at a certain time.
- Relaxation calms the tension in your mind and body.
- Try meditation, progressive muscular relaxation, music therapy, yoga or tai chi.
- Positive words and thoughts propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and help us build resilience and increase vitality.
- Reframe negative thoughts by choosing to focus on positive words and images.
- Family and friends may encourage us, directly or indirectly, to take better care of ourselves.
- Social support “buffers” against stress and provides emotional and tangible resources to help us deal with adverse events and illness.
Plan, Problem Solve & Organize
- Address the stressors that you can change.
- Accept the things you can’t and create alternative ways of thinking.
- Get organized. Use “To Do” lists to prioritize and approach large tasks.
Stress, if not managed properly, can take a huge toll on our lives, but it doesn’t have to. We can’t always control the things that take place around us, but we can take steps and be sure that we can win over stress.
Seek professional help if you are having prolonged difficulty managing stress or anxiety.