Long working hours and the pressures of the job mean more of us are feeling the strain. Left unchecked, stress can lead to anxiety and depression as well as ulcers and high blood pressure. You might not be able to quit your job but making little changes to your workday could make all the difference.
How to beat stress at work –
1. Get Organised
When your workload keeps growing, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Spending 10 minutes every morning to get organised is time well spent. Make a list of the tasks you need to get done each day and then see if any can be delegated or postpone.
2. Step Outside
If you can't remove yourself from a stressful situation (and can't re-schedule that performance review), you can at least remove yourself from the environment. Stepping outside and feeling the sun on your face can help promote feelings of calm.
3. Phone a friend
If you're having a bad day, phone your partner or a friend. Talking things over with a loved one releases the anxiety-reducing hormone oxytocin, according to a study by the University of Virginia in the US.
4. Stretch and Breathe
We tend to breathe more shallowly when we're stressed. Next time you feel tense take five big deep breaths, focusing on the out breath. Stretch your arms wide, roll your shoulders and gently bend your neck. Release the tension from your body throughout the day and you help prevent the build-up of stress.
5. Respect your limitations
Speak up if you're feeling swamped. If you don't think you can make a deadline, inform your boss as soon as possible. He or she may be able to bring more people on to the project or extend the deadline. Burying your head in the sand won't do your health any favours.
6. Have a laugh
Nothing beats tension like laughter. When the team is under pressure, think up ways to give everyone a good giggle. Studies show that laughter stimulates the circulation and aids muscle relaxation, lowers blood pressure and releases the body's natural 'painkillers'.
7. Breathe before you speak
Take a few deep breaths before you answer a phone call. Waiting a few rings before you pick up and breathing deeply produces less stress on the body than snatching up the receiver straight away, say researchers from the University of Milan.
8. Take a walk
Go for a power walk at lunch time. A brisk walk around the park or even the shops will help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. If you really can't leave the building, run up and down the office stairs a few times.
9. Turn up the volume
If you can't get away from your desk, put your headphones on and turn up the volume. Listening to music that gets the blood pumping will help produce adrenaline, which reduces the effects of cortisol on the body.
10. Start your day with oats
Have a bowl of porridge topped with sliced banana for breakfast. Oatmeal helps the body produce the feel-good hormone serotonin, while the potassium in bananas helps keep blood pressure under control.
11. Get it done today
Procrastination is a common response to stress but if you've got a deadline looming, it's best to deal with it straight away. Doing the filing might temporarily ease your stress levels but you will be even more anxious two hours later when the deadline is that much closer.
12. Play a game on the train
If the commute to work makes you feel stressed, lose yourself in a book or play a game on your smartphone. Playing a game or app lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 17 per cent, according to a study by McGill University, Canada.
13. Don't take it home with you
Smartphones, laptops and tablet computers mean many of us are constantly connected to work. Don't be tempted to check or reply to your emails or text messages. Having a complete break at the weekend will allow you to start Monday energised and refreshed.
14. Drink Orange Juice
Give the coffee bar a miss. Caffeine boosts adrenaline production and suppresses adenosine, a natural relaxant in your brain. Have a glass of fresh orange juice instead. Stress depletes vitamin C, so this is a good way to keep your levels topped up.
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