I see stress at work almost daily in my practice of mostly professional women who often come to my practice because they feel their lives are out of control and they can’t deal with work stress anymore. The impact of stress on your body, mind, and feelings, if left unchecked, can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Despite its normalcy, we all have a line that we shouldn’t cross when it comes to stress.
Stress is hard to avoid and even harder to conquer. That’s in part because as a country we prize hard work and working long hours over just about anything. We give lip service to taking care of ourselves, but with the average vacation time being 10 days, we haven’t learned how to prioritize our well-being. And we often work for organizations that don’t either.
We are a striving country and all that striving and increasing workloads and demands require us to spend more and more time at work. Women especially, are often pulled between the needs of their children, significant others, jobs, and in many cases their aging parents. The result is worker burnout, which can lead to depression and anxiety.
So how do you know when you can’t deal with work stress and your stress box is starting to get full? Well first you need to know what to look for. Does any of this look familiar?
These signs, both emotional and physical, are what you should be looking for when you know you are working in a stressful environment. While your boss may recognize that you can’t deal with the work stress telling you to slow down, they might not be able to actually help you do that by reducing your workload. It’s up to you to figure out how to both stay on top of everything at work and attend to your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Here are some really simple steps you can take right away to help you deal with work stress and remain calm enough to do what you need to do:
A deep breath has been shown to slow the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure, and lower stress. When we get stressed out we tend to chest breathe which does not help us calm down, but rather prepares us for the coming battle. To calm down, practice belly breathing, a term used to describe how we get full oxygen-incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide- that can slow the heart beat. This is probably the complete opposite of how you’re breathing now. To belly breathe, imagine that your belly is a balloon that expands as you take in air. Breathe in through your nose and feel the balloon filling with air, then breathe out through your mouth, expending enough force to empty the balloon. You can also use a count of 4…breathe in through your nose 2..3..4..hold..2..3..4..breathe out..2..3..4..
2. Go outside or look outside or listen to the quiet noise of nature.
There is a strong body of research that shows that being in nature improves mental health and spiritual development.
3. Try some of these herbal remedies that might help you feel more calm. Be sure to check with your doctor however if you are taking medications, have an autoimmune disease, or are pregnant before taking any of these herbs.
4. Eat well.
What we eat impacts our serotonin, cortisol, and adrenaline, stress hormones that seriously impact the body over time. WebMD identifies several foods that you can eat to reduce your levels of these hormones and decrease the impact of stress on you mentally and physically.
5. Get proper rest.
I know, I know. We all want to believe that we can get by on a minimal amount of sleep. But really. The research is consistent on this. You need 8 hours. So turn off Trevor Noah and Steven Colbert and go to bed!
6. Maintain your social connections.
Having meaningful connections gives us the opportunity to experience the other parts of our lives that are separate from work. Hang out with your family, meet your friends for dinner, share that glass of wine with your friends and/or significant others. You have a life. Make time for it!
7. Connect to a spiritual or meditation practice and use at least one technique every day.
8. Don’t forget exercise!
Physical exercise helps turn up the endorphins, our brains feel good neurotransmitters. Exercising for just 30 minutes a day can go a long way in reducing our stress. Or at least it gives you the opportunity to rid your body of it in a way that helps you to feel good and to look good
If you find that you are running out of steam and can’t deal with work stress anymore you may have a difficult time recognizing it. Take a look at the signs and see if you can find yourself there. I encourage you to try at least one of the strategies listed in the article and see what you think.
I'm Melissa Watson-Clark a psychotherapist who helps people just like you overcome the stresses of life. If you would like more information and support to manage your own stress go to schedule a consultation call.
Melissa Watson-Clark has been practicing as a psychotherapist since 2010. Working primarily with clients suffering with anxiety and depression she focuses on the power of nature to bring healing and restoration to her clients.