If you’re suffering from work-related stress, you’re not alone. 43% of people in the US report that their job has a negative impact on stress-levels, which can have far-reaching consequences in other areas of life. Stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health, affect your interpersonal relationships and hinder productivity. Taking steps to cope with stress is crucial for enjoying a better quality of life.
While it may not be possible to eliminate all external stressors at your job, you can develop better internal mechanisms for stress management. Chronic stress occurs when everyday events trigger a flight or fight response in the body, elevating cortisol and adrenaline levels, increasing blood pressure and heart rate and causing muscle tension. This reaction is evolutionarily programmed to help humans stay staff when under attack, however, in the face of modern day stressors in the workplace, this response is not only useless, it can be detrimental.
Hypnotherapy, meditation and psychotherapy utilize guided relaxation techniques to help retrain the brain to respond to stress more appropriately and effectively. MRIs have shown the hypnotherapy can impact the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula, which are two parts of the brain involved in the processing and control of what’s going on in the body. If your daily commute is a major source of stress, obtain an audio recording of a guided meditation that works for you, and listen to it on the bus, train or in your car. This can help you to unwind on your commute, which will set you up for a more relaxing, restful workday.
Social support and human connection can help make coping with workplace stress much easier. The simple act of talking, whether it’s to your coworkers, family members or a therapist can help you arrive at solutions to problems that may otherwise seem insurmountable. Studies show that social isolation can heighten stress reactivity on a cardiovascular and neuroendocrine level. Starting a new job, traveling for work or not getting along with your coworkers can exacerbate stress at work.
If you’re working abroad, look for ways to build community, either among your coworkers or with new people you meet on your travels. Find people with whom you can share meals and enjoy relaxing activities outside the workplace. If you’re having a hard time adapting socially in the workplace, a psychotherapist can help you examine the reasons why and find strategies to overcome negative behavioral patterns that may be keeping your from flourishing socially.
When your workload feels overwhelming, your instinct may be to continue working nonstop to get it all done. This approach, however, may lead to burnout and ultimately leave you less productive. Taking periodic breaks throughout your day will help you feel better and work more efficiently. Use your breaks to mindfully eat a nourishing meal or snack, stretch your body and center your thoughts. Take a few minutes each hour to focus on your breathing, bring awareness back to your body and let go of distracting thoughts.
Stress does not have to be an inevitable part of working life. If stress is left unmanaged, it can take a serious toll on all areas of your life. Whether you seek professional guidance or find ways to cope with stress on your own, it’s important to take a proactive approach to achieve relaxation and better mental health.