Stress is now the most common cause of absence due to long-term sickness according to 2011 research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Stress costs an estimated $200 billion annually.
Research suggests that one in six people of working age have a mental health problem such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance, impact your physical and emotional health, and affect your relationships and home life. It can even mean the difference between success and failure on the job. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Whatever your ambitions or work demands, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress, improve your job satisfaction, and bolster your well-being in and out of the workplace.
Feeling Stressed? Remember, Not All Stress is Bad!
Stress is your body's response to any change in its inner or outer environment. You can NOT rid yourself of all stress. Stress is a response to living. However, the critical factor to living well with life's stressors is our thoughts about the situations in which we find ourselves.
- Change in appetite
- Headache, backache, or chest pain
- Muscle spasms
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Irritability, anxiety, or depression
- Frequent crying
- A noticeably negative attitude
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- Poor concentration
- Letting little things bother you
- Difficulty controlling your temper, outbursts
(Parlay International, 1995)
Quick Tips for Stress Reduction at Work
When you've got one minute:
Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in slowly. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.
Alternatively, while sitting comfortably, take a few slow deep breaths and quietly repeat to yourself "I am" as you breathe in and "at peace" as you breathe out. Repeat slowly two or three times. Feel your entire body relax into the support of the chair.
When you've got two minutes:
Count down slowly from 10 to zero. With each number, take one complete breath, inhaling and exhaling. For example, breathe in deeply, saying "10" to yourself. Breathe out slowly. On your next breath, say "nine," and so on. If you feel lightheaded, count down more slowly to space your breaths farther apart. When you reach zero, you should feel more relaxed. If not, go through the exercise again.
When you've got three minutes:
While sitting down, take a break from whatever you're doing and check your body for tension. Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to fall open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so that there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly.
When you've got five minutes:
Try self-massage. A combination of strokes works well to relieve muscle tension. Try gentle chops with the edge of your hands or tapping with fingers or cupped palms. Put fingertip pressure on muscle knots. Knead across muscles, and try long, light, gliding strokes. You can apply these strokes to any part of the body that falls easily within your reach. For a short session like this, try focusing on your neck and head.
Start by kneading the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders. Make a loose fist and drum swiftly up and down the sides and back of your neck. Next, use your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of your skull. Slowly massage the rest of your scalp with your fingertips. Then tap your fingers against your scalp, moving from the front to the back and then over the sides.
Now massage your face. Make a series of tiny circles with your thumbs or fingertips. Pay particular attention to your temples, forehead, and jaw muscles. Use your middle fingers to massage the bridge of your nose and work outward over your eyebrows to your temples.
Finally, close your eyes. Cup your hands loosely over your face and inhale and exhale easily for a short while.
When you've got 10 minutes:
Try imagery. Start by sitting comfortably in a quiet room. Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Now picture yourself in a place that conjures up good memories. What do you smell—the heavy scent of roses on a hot day, crisp fall air, the wholesome smell of baking bread? What do you hear? Drink in the colors and shapes that surround you. Focus on sensory pleasures: the swoosh of a gentle wind; soft, cool grass tickling your feet; the salty smell and rhythmic beat of the ocean. Passively observe intrusive thoughts, and then gently disengage from them to return to the world you've created.