At some point in our professional lives, we all feel the pressure of work-related stress. Even the commute to work can be a nerve-wracking journey. Although workplace stress is a usual symptom of the “9-to-5 virus,” excessive stress at work can result in decreased productivity and severely impact our physical and mental well-being. The ability to effectively relieve stress at work can mean the difference between success and failure.
February is Heart Health month. Did you know that stress and high blood pressure are just a few of the leading causes of heart disease? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. According to a 2014 report from the American Heart Association (AHA), 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks – six times more than the number of women who die from breast cancer. The time is now to learn about the importance of stress management in the workplace and how it effects personal and professional health.
While it’s impossible to control all aspects of your work environment, you have the power to take control. Here are steps to manage workplace stress:
Embrace Good Stress
Too much stress is certainly bad for you, but some work stressors can actually benefit your health. Stimulating yourself with a new challenge or taking on new responsibilities at work keep your heart and mind active and productive. The right amount of stress in the workplace can work as a motivator and boost brainpower, increase short-term immunity and make you more resilient to stressful situations.
Identify the Source and Develop a Plan
Dealing with stress doesn’t have to be a workplace sentence. It can help to first identify the aspects of the issues you can control and aspects you cannot. Draw out a visual diagram to better structure your projects and deadlines or talk with your supervisor about reorganizing your responsibilities. Once you recognize the source, develop an effective plan to manage the stressors you’ve identified, so you perform your best on the job.
Develop Healthy Responses
Making hasty career decisions or avoiding certain peers at work may be detrimental to your professional livelihood. Instead, attempt to fight stress by scheduling breaks throughout the day to stretch at your desk, go for a walk or do a breathing exercise to recharge. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and maintain a healthy diet. If snacking at your desk helps to ease the tension, there are many healthy alternatives that are beneficial to heart health such as nuts, apples, yogurt and raisins.
Establish Work-Life Boundaries
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid bringing work home. Whether it’s checking an email in the evening or answering a work call during dinner. Setting clear boundaries between work-life and home-life can reduce the potential for bringing stress home with you. Spending time with your family and enjoying the better things in life warms the heart and refreshes the soul. Sometimes enjoying your time at home is all you need to alleviate stress.
It’s okay to speak up. Seeking and accepting help from friends, family, colleagues or even connections you have made from IAW Local Chapters can improve your ability to manage stress. It also may be beneficial to talk to a counselor or mental health professional in your area. Read about heart disease survivor, Star Jones and how she fought the battle and became an AHA National Volunteer.
We want to hear from you! How have you successfully handled stress at work? Do you think companies should create supportive policies and environments around stress management?