Moving into post-pandemic operations is still creating a wave of stress and anxiety in our homes and community. It’s important for workplace teams to recognize how stress manifests itself and adopt strategies and practices that can help them navigate stress in the healthiest way possible.
Listen to “Managing Workplace Stress Part 1” on Spreaker.
During the discussion Tina said the line, “If you can’t remember the last time you had fun, you might be stressed”. It was reminiscent of the old Jeff Foxworthy “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes from the ‘90s. (For example, “If you own a home with wheels on it and several cars without, you might be a redneck”)
If you started running to alleviate stress and now you’re somewhere in Argentina, you might be stressed out.
If the stress about getting stressed is stressing you, you might be stressed out.
If you tried putting a juice box straw into a boxed wine, you might be stressed out.
The truth is, we can tell when we’re stressed out. Some of us get irritable. Some of us grind our teeth or clench our back muscles. We eat junk food. We get headaches and have trouble focusing. It might seem like being stressed is counterproductive to taking care of work, and that’s because it is. Stress, and its symptoms, are merely the byproduct of a biological system our bodies created, and we grew out of long ago.
Our bodies evolved our “fight or flight” instincts over thousands of years to help us defend ourselves against threats such as potential predator attacks. In modern times, however, attacks by a wild boar are (thankfully) not as common in the workplace as, say, jammed printers. And when that project deadline is looming over us, while it might feel good to punch a coworker or simply run away, that “fight or flight” instinct really isn’t helping us solve our problems.
Listen to “Managing Workplace Stress Part 2” on Spreaker.
Rather, those instincts are flooding our body with adrenaline, drawing energy from our immune system, and circulating chemical impulses within our body with no effective means of release. So instead of going out into the woods and taking down a wild boar (or in my case, taking down a bottle of Wild Boar Cellars’ Cabernet), there are some healthy and effective ways to release these chemicals and constructively manage your stress:
Exercise. Your body is giving you the adrenaline, use it to not only trick your body into thinking it’s fixing the situation, but also keep yourself healthy and help clear your mind!
Cry. We keep lying to ourselves that it’s not okay to cry, but crying is a great way to release endorphins and is perfectly healthy. If you’re not a big crier, laugh! Laughing and crying are two of the best ways to signal to your brain that the stressor is over, and it’s time to move on.
Meditate. Either through yoga, or with a mantra, or guided by an app like Calm, or even just taking a little bit of time to be mindful, meditation is an easy but powerful way to alleviate stress and clear out some of its negative symptoms in our mind and body.
Stay healthy. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep! As Karen says in the podcast, “Sleep is a Swiss Army knife” for stress management. We can tell we are better and more productive when we’ve had enough rest. Keep hydrated, eat well; all of the things that keep our body healthy will help reverse the damaging effects of stress. We tend to think of stress as a mental or emotional issue, but it affects our whole body, so make sure you are taking care of yourself physically as well!
And of course, try to fix the root of the problem. While these are all good remedies for coping with stress, the best solution is to deal with what is causing the stress in the first place, most likely work. Take some time off, or establish boundaries so that your work life does not pour into your personal time. There has been a 75% increase in worker burnout over the past four years, and it is definitely related to the fact that we are working more hours, not using our vacation time, and taking on more tasks. Workplace stress has led to a drastic increase in worker burnout and decrease in employee retention. A large percentage of workers say their company does not offer any sort of program to alleviate or prevent burnout. Programs like MindfulAppy are designed to give managers an insight into their employees mental wellbeing, so they can help workers alleviate stressors before the issue leads to burnout.
While it will most likely be a while until our bodies evolve an effective system for handling traffic jams, unanswered emails, and other stressors, we can at least find alternatives that don’t involve quitting our jobs to go live in the forest, foraging for berries and hunting small game. We can take better care of our minds and bodies by taking these steps toward healthy and effective stress management.
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