5 Strategies to Handle Stress in the Workplace

What is stress?

Stress wasn’t always a bad thing. Back in the day of the cavemen, stress was brilliantly useful to our survival and could help us detect potential danger. In modern times, however, it is (arguably) the bane of our existence.

Stress is the result of a “fight or flight” response when our bodies feel like we’re under attack, triggering a release of a mix of hormones and chemicals (e.g. adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine). The problem arises when we enter a state of stress under all the wrong circumstances. Our “fight or flight” response causes our bodies to divert energy and blood flow into the areas that will help us survive the “attack”.  However this also means that brain function is diminished, resulting in those ‘…uh’ moments or the inability to think straight.

Here are some common workplace stressors that we’re sure you’ll be able to relate to:

  • Low salaries
  • Excessive workloads
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement
  • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
  • Lack of social support
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions
  • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations

As hard as we might wish for it, stress doesn’t just disappear as soon as we walk into our homes. Those feelings of stress and overwhelming anxiety stick with us. According to the American Psychological Association, stressful work environments can contribute to problems such as headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating.

Sounds like a hefty list, but that’s not all. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to mental illness. Chronic stress can result in cases of anxiety (as mentioned) and depression. Additionally, because we tend to deal with stress in unhealthy ways, it can also result in obesity and heart disease. Have you ever had a terribly stressful day at work and ended up at a McDonalds eating your heart out? Maybe even drank a little more than you should have? We have all been there.  

Here are 5 different strategies you could implement to improve the way you handle stress:

1. Keep a journal

It’s not always easy to understand exactly why we’re feeling stressed. Keeping a journal can help you identify not only your stressors, but also the way you react to them. Record your interactions, remember the way they made you feel. Identifying these instances and your reactions will help you better understand the why and how you can improve. Not to mention, journaling can help resolve all those negative emotions we accumulate throughout the day. It’s an outlet that can make no judgements and is there for you no matter the occasion.

2. Develop healthy responses

We get it, binging on food or/and alcohol is much easier than exercising but the truth is: Exercise is a great stress-reliever. The best part? It won’t make you feel sick after everything is over and done with. Making time for hobbies and your favourite activities are also amazing ways to relieve some work-related stress. Both help take your mind out of the situation, allowing you to concentrate on something that actually makes you feel good. Whether it means taking some time to finish your favourite novel, going to a concert, or just spending some quality time with family, make sure you set time aside for the things that bring you pleasure. 

3. Set boundaries

It’s okay to take time for yourself. Often times, we’re a little too eager to please our bosses. You might feel pressured to be available 24 hours a day. Maybe there’s even someone at work that is driving you insane (with stress!). Try setting some workplace boundaries. It’s important to realize that you can’t please everyone. Set personal rules and enforce them passionately. For example, try not answering the phone during dinner, or “snoozing” your work-related notifications until the next day.

4. Sleep

Take the time to recharge. Everyone needs time to replenish and de-stress, even the most hardworking CEOs take a few days for themselves. Perhaps you’re not able to take a full 8 hours of sleep time, but it’s still important to “switch off” from work. Taking the time to get the right amount of sleep will help your productivity and help you feel replenished.  Don’t let your vacation days go to waste. Start by turning off your smartphone and focusing on non-work related activities for a while.

5. Look for support

Accept help from colleagues or friends and family. Not only can they empathize with you, they might have some useful and relevant experiences on how they deal with their own stress. If there’s no one you feel confident opening up to, book an appointment with your nearest counselling centre. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a referral to see a therapist. Terrace Wellness Group offers complimentary intake consultations. Give us a call at 613.831.1105 or email admin@terraceyouth.ca. We will be happy to help you not only understand why you’re feeling stressed, but also develop the strategies you need to improve.

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