No matter how much you love what you do or how passionately you feel about your company’s vision, experiencing work-related stress at some point is an inevitable part of entrepreneurship. And, if unchecked, stress can have detrimental effects in our bodies: from headaches, muscle pain, accelerated breathing and heartburn to more serious ailments like insomnia, depression, infertility, and heart attack.
Unfortunately, high levels of stress are much too common among the Australian population and pose a serious threat to our health and wellbeing; a survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society found that between 2011 and 2014, a sustained average of over 2 in 5 working Australians (44%) found work-related issues as a main source of stress.
However, how we deal with the pressures of work determines whether we will become yet another victim of stress, or be a victor in the balancing act of stress management. Here are 6 ways to deal with stress to help you keep your Zen in the workplace:
- Identify your stressors
Becoming aware of what situations cause your stress levels to rise is the first step. Observe what times of day, interactions, or circumstances bring your stress levels up, and record them in a journal over a period of two weeks. After you have identified your stressors, you can implement the following techniques to handle them in a healthy way:
It might seem like a stretch to add yet another activity to an already-packed agenda, but exercise is a powerful tool in handling stress and achieving overall wellness. Commit to at least 30 minutes of physical activity that makes you break a sweat and raises your heart rate on most days, ideally every day before your work day begins. Exercising oxygenates your body, improves heart performance, releases tension, and allows you to become more focused.
When you find yourself in a highly stressful situation at work, doing something as simple as a few push-ups or throwing a few power-packed punches at the empty space can help you release tension and get a clearer mindset to deal with your stressor more effectively.
- Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling depleted and highly reactive to stressors. When you’re not well-rested, dealing with the pressures of work can become a much more difficult task than it is when you’ve given your body the time it needs to replenish. Getting enough hours of sleep is a key element in stress management, and be mindful of that regular exercise can improve your sleep quality significantly, so these two practices go hand in hand.
- Stay connected
In the high-paced workplace environment it can be easy to become isolated from those around you, and focus solely on the matters that cause you stress. Take a few moments each day to connect with your coworkers or make a phone call to a friend or family member. If you’re having a hard time identifying what actions or resources are needed to solve an issue, you may be able to have an open conversation with a colleague or trusted relationship in regards to it, and together you may find a solution for the issue at hand.
- Create boundaries
It is much too common to find yourself answering work-related phone calls, texts or emails at home, or during your leisure time. Although this is sometimes necessary, it is important to draw boundaries between work and personal life to reduce stress. Allowing yourself the time and space to relax and experience life outside of work is important in cultivating self-care and health.
- Practice deep breathing
Controlled breathing is an undervalued treasure. It can have a profound effect on our wellbeing – stimulating the nervous system to decrease anxiety, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and if practiced long-term, even fostering brain growth.
At various points in your day, stop and become aware of your breathing. You’ll be surprised to find yourself doing shallow, frantic breaths without even realizing it. This unconscious practice raises the levels of carbon dioxide in your blood and increases the production of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress chemicals that throw your body in the loop of angst at the office.
Taking a moment to stop, straighten your back, relax your muscles and breathe deeply can truly make a difference in how you feel, and how you will tackle whatever situation is at hand. A clinical study published by The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing (also known as S.K.Y.) has substantial benefits in stress and anxiety management, among other illnesses. You can watch a video to learn how to practice the S.K.Y. breathing technique, and implement it in your daily life when stressful situations arise. The solution to stress might be, quite literally, under your very nose.