Managing Stress at Work

Once upon a time while managing a group of health and fitness professionals, I caught myself constantly responding to the common question “How was your day?” with one word. Stressful. At the same time, when I met with employees to discuss challenges they faced, stress always came up. We loved our jobs and even practiced healthy habits in our careers, but we still had stressors. The truth of the matter is…everyone who has ever had a job has experienced work-related stress.A woman with a mountain of stressful paperwork in front of her.

More than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress and just 36 percent said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage that stress.” –American Psychology Association(APA).

The source of these stressors differ for everyone, but we can all relate in a few ways to manage those stressors. Helping your employees to keep stress at bay will result in substantial benefits to your company like increased productivity, improved employee morale, and employee retention.

“In the short term, a stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol.” (APA)

A good place to start is to identify the source. Some common work-related sources of stress include lack of social support, work that doesn’t challenge or engage the employee, little control over job related decisions, unclear performance standards, conflicting demands, no opportunity for growth, or excessive workloads. I always say that chronically stressed people are likely to have heart events just as much as  those with high cholesterol. Lifestyle changes are hard to come by if stress isn’t managed.

Here are a few ideas to help you manage stress at work:

  • Create and define your boundaries
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Take allotted breaks
  • Stay hydrated
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Focus on one activity at a time
  • Get support
  • Unwind from your day with exercise (I have taken to walking lately. Not to mention, I get my steps in!)

As a leader, it is extremely important to talk to your employees about stress. It’s not obligatory, but I found it so helpful in building relationships and showing I care. I prefer to do this one on one with my employees.

Comment with what has worked for you and your employees.

Source: American Psychology Association

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