Feeling stressed at work? Relax! Take a look at these strategies for coping with stress overload.
We can all relate to the example of the person who is sitting behind a desk with paperwork piled so high, it is reminiscent of a landfill. You can picture this person; messy hair; eyes open wide; hands flailing; and is sweating profusely. We can all relate to this example in some way, because we all have felt stress.
In modern usage, stress has become a rather generic term for the physical and emotional tension that we experience when we start to feel overwhelmed by what’s happening in our life. It has distinctly negative connotation.
However, the truth is that stress can be a good thing. It was unquestionably beneficial in the early days of man, when wild beasts with a taste for humans were commonplace. In those days, the so-called “fight or flight” response provided man with the extra energy and alertness needed to either do battle with the monster or run as fast as you can. The accompanying physiological effects, increased blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension, were life savers.
The body responds to such emergency situations by releasing two hormones, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline) which causes the heart to beat faster, (thereby pumping more blood to the muscles and brain), increased respiration rate and blood pressure, and activated blood-clotting mechanisms to prepare for physical injury.
This stress response is useful today in many parts of lives, such as when it helps us outrun a mugger or give a terrific presentation in front of a live audience. However, if we’re not careful, it all too easily becomes the negative tension that causes us to snap at those we love and suffer throbbing headaches.
All of us feel stress every day, and to cease to feel stress is to cease to live. Stress is as intertwined with life as sleeping and breathing. It’s only when stress begins to inhibit our creativity, health and general feeling of well-being that it becomes a problem, but it’s not always easy to recognize the signs of too much stress in ourselves. We often become so consumed with our problems that our self-awareness dulls.
Some common symptoms of stress to watch out for include: unexplained, persistent fatigue; headaches and/or backaches; apathy or irritability; feelings of isolation or helplessness; flashes of anger; obsession with a problem, perhaps heaping blame on yourself; changes in eating or sleeping habits; feelings of depression; proneness to accidents; or increased problems in communicating with others.
On the other hand, there are definitely times when we are pulling out our hair, and we know it. In this case, there are perhaps as many strategies for coping with the immediate symptoms of stress as there are individuals who experience them. The trick is to find what works for you.
Here are a few strategies for coping with stress overload:
Take a walk. Researchers from several Health and Fitness Centers found that after people took a brisk 40-minute walk, they experienced a 14 percent average drop in anxiety levels.
Talk it out. Talking things out helps to relieve your strain, helps you to see your worry in a clearer light and often helps you to see what you can do about it.
Take one thing at a time. When your stress is due to having too many deadlines in too short a time, it is easy to become paralyzed and unable to determine what your next move should be. If you find that happening to you, sit down for a moment and collect your thoughts. Make a quick list of all the things you need to complete and determine which deadline comes first, which tasks can be taken care of quickly and which can be delegated. Then delegate the tasks that you can. If you have time, take care of one or two of the tasks that require a small time commitment, maybe you can finish them with a telephone call. Then tackle the most urgent items. Start into them one at a time, setting aside all the rest for the time begin. Once you dispose of these, you’ll find the remainder easier to deal with.
Let yourself worry. A recent study at Pennsylvania State University found that people who identified themselves as chronic worriers were able to reduce anxiety by setting aside a half-hour a day just to worry. When they caught themselves worrying at other times during the day, they postponed it.
Try relaxation techniques. There are many popular relaxation techniques; try different ones until you find one that’s right for you. Here are two very good ones:
Visualization is a technique in which you stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and imagine a beautiful scene, perhaps from your last vacation. Spend at least ten to fifteen minutes every day examining and enjoying every detail of the picture, trying to see, hear, and smell everything.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple technique where you lie down in a quiet room and let your mind drift. Then, one by one, single out different muscle groups and alternatively tense and relax them. Work from your toes to your head, several times if necessary, until you feel totally relaxed.
People today are working more hours than at any time in history. Many people are working two and sometimes three jobs just to make ends meet. Consequently, people today have less time for leisure and family activities. This causes a feeling of being overworked which is a clear contributor to increased feelings of stress.
When people feel overworked it causes them to feel that they are not in control of their life. When a person feels that he or she is not in control of his or her personal life that causes a feeling of isolation, which is very serious. If this happens you have to get the feeling of control back. Here are some ways to help you do that:
- Eliminate unnecessary physical demands for your life, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and long commutes in heavy traffic.
- Get plenty of exercise. Aerobic exercise not only reduces anxiety and muscle tension but also improves your coping skills.
- Eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. Good nutrition and regular sleeping habits play an important role in keeping your life in balance.
- Be a participant in life. Many people drive themselves so hard at work that they find it hard to make themselves take time out from the office. Take up a hobby that you truly enjoy and that you can throw yourself into with pleasure, forgetting all about the pressures at work. Also, take up activities that will involve you with others.
- Get your relationships in good order. Conflict is a major source of stress. Make sure that you take the time to nurture your relationships with those you love.
- Keep a sense of perspective. How many things in your life really are life-and-death situations?
- Recognize that you are in charge of stress. You can choose to be constantly tense or to reduce your tension. Take responsibility for your feelings, and do something about them.
- Take time off. You need to take time off from work to now and then to regain your equilibrium. When you do, remind yourself that you are taking time off to relax; don’t let your mind stay behind in the office.
Stress is inevitable. Problems are never ending. Failures and disappointments happen to everyone, all the time. The only thing over which you have any control is how you respond to these stressful events. Use the techniques that work best for you on a regular basis so when stress strikes you’ll be able to beat it and regain your equilibrium.
About the Author
Joe Love draws on his 25 yeAll rights reserved worldwide.ars of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and success coaching programs. Copyright© by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc.