Stress is a part of our everyday lives as human beings. Unfortunately, the health consequences of untreated stress can be particularly debilitating over time. Among the many different stressors, workplace-induced stress is among the most common sources for stress build-up. Learning how to manage stress on a day-to-day basis is an important aspect of retaining our mental and physical health. This article will detail how to identify and manage stress symptoms and how to promote stress relief in the office to employees and leaders.
Sources of Stress
Stress is a natural reaction we experience frequently. According to MedlinePlus, stress is a feeling of either emotional or physical tension. This tension comes from events that often make us feel frustrated, angry or anxious.
There are two types of stress:
- Acute Stress: Short-term stress that comes and goes quickly. This type of stress helps us manage dangerous situations. It often occurs when you do something new or unknown.
- Chronic Stress: Stress that occurs over a period of weeks or months. This stress comes from more complex situations, such as financial issues or stress in the office. You may not realize you suffer from chronic stress as you become more used to it.
Stress can be beneficial at times when you need to accomplish a challenging task or meet an important deadline. However, allowing stress to build up without managing it can lead to some profound consequences.
Consequences of Stress Build-Up
Chronic stress can cause a host of behavioral, physical, mental or cognitive issues if left untreated.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems. Some of these common mental health problems include anxiety, depression, substance abuse and panic attacks.
In addition, chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of medical issues. According to research available from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, chronic stress can act as an immune system suppressor, causing people to become more susceptible to illness. In addition, chronic stress has shown to be associated with the development of gastrointestinal issues, cancer and heart disease.
Stress is an incredibly complex issue that most individuals deal with daily. It’s important to identify both the sources of stress as well as potential complications to manage it correctly.
How to Manage Stress
Finding an effective method of managing stress is critical to maintaining a high quality of life. Share the following stress management tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness with your team:
- Accept your needs. Recognize what your triggers are. What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can avoid them when it’s reasonable to, and to cope when you can’t.
- Manage your time. Prioritizing your activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines.
- Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are effective ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment.
- Exercise daily. Schedule time to walk outside, bike or join a dance class. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
- Set aside time for yourself. Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, getting a massage or taking your dog for a walk.
- Eat well. Eating unprocessed foods, like whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit, is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood.
- Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions, like mania in bipolar disorder, can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t reduce stress. In fact, they often worsen it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, educate yourself and get help.
Also, encourage team members to discuss their stress symptoms with a mental health professional or counselor.
Promoting Stress Relief in the Office
While promoting stress relief is important in general, it can be particularly important to promote stress relief in the office. Issues such as burnout can not only affect the performance of employees, but may also cost a fortune in overhead costs due to consequential factors such as absenteeism and turnover.
According to a research paper available in JAMA Network, a 2019 clinical trial assessed the effect of a workplace wellness program on health and economic outcomes. The findings demonstrated that the implementation of these programs increased the incidence of employees exercising regularly by 8.3 percent and increased the incidence of employee weight management by 13.6 percent. However, the same study found no other significant differences in other health indications, job performance or tenure.
According to Harvard Business Review, the results of this study indicate that companies need to shift to an organization-based approach to stress reduction at work. This includes both fostering employee well-being and improving business performance. Here are some organization-based approaches to promote stress relief in the office:
- Build breaks into your workday. Allowing our minds to rest between work is important to maintain consistent production. Our brains can only focus for between 90 and 120 minutes before it needs a break. Consider promoting short walks, using calendar reminders and being proactive in implementing regular breaks.
- Encourage use of private workspaces. Shared workspaces are a common way of promoting a collaborative work environment. Consider eliminating these distractions by installing “quiet hours” or putting up “do not disturb” signs.
- Set boundaries for time outside of work. Mingling work time with personal time is a significant source of stress for employees. A Virginia Tech study conducted by Professor William Becker found that the expectation of availability is a significant stressor for employees and endangers work performance and personal lives.
- Implement flexible work policies. The pandemic has changed how we normally conduct work. Flexible work gives employees a healthier work-life balance. Implement staggered work hours and set up alternative arrangements for employees who struggle to stay engaged with your office.
- Give your employees autonomy. A Gallup poll showed how employees are 43 percent less likely to burn out when being able to work with greater independence. Make sure to communicate individually to employees to gauge their comfort with working autonomously.
There are certainly many other ways to promote stress relief in the office, but these are some fundamental approaches to start with. The most important thing to keep in mind is that everyone has different stressors and triggers. Make sure to keep an open mind and communicate with your employees to find a workplace arrangement that ensures productivity and peace of mind.
Advocate for Your Organization
Stress is a fundamental part of the human body. Knowing how to identify and manage stressors is an important part of promoting a successful, productive business.
Want to learn more? Contact Higginbotham today to find out how you can empower your organization to promote stress relief in the office.