Science tells us that how we cope with stress has a huge effect on our well-being. For most of us it’s difficult to be stressed and happy at the same time. Our naturalfight, flight, or freeze response is not usually the most helpful reaction at work.
What do you typically do under stress? How much do you stress out about the stress you are feeling? Is that helpful or harmful to you?
Among other bad news most of us have heard about stress, a meta-analysis of the impact of workplace stress found that job strain is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. The good news is that studies have also found 7 Ways Stress Does Your Mind and Body Good.
What can you do to protect yourself from the damaging side effects and boost the positive side effects of workplace stress? Reassess, stave off and soothe stress.
Most of us think stress is our enemy and has terrible effects on our health. That can be true. But some stress is actually good for us. Managing stress doesn’t mean eliminating stress. Instead of seeing stress as always negative, you can reassess stress as a helpful and energizing force at work.
In a Harvard study, those who viewed stress as helpful experienced less ill health effects from their stress. Your heart pounds and you break into a sweat as your body is preparing you for action! In Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk How To Make Stress Your Friend, she shares that how you view and respond to stress is literally life-changing: you can live a longer, healthier and happier life by reassessing stress as helpful.
Stave off stress.
Even better than rethinking how stress affects you is preventing stress in the first place. To reduce the stress in your work life, try the following:
- Remember that we are social creatures, and social issues are particularly important to us. Invest in relationships.
- Work to give each other Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness to prevent social stress.
- Get enough sleep by practicing effective “sleep hygiene“. A lack of sleep often leads to a stressful view on the world.
No matter what you do, some stress will still come your way. Cope effectively! The following ideas–all of which are included in the current version of my card game that teaches the science of thriving at work–may help you soothe your stress:
- Don’t Stress About Your Stress: Don’t compound your stress by stressing about your stress! Excess stress can trigger a stronger “freeze, flight, or fight” response, which can limit your brain’s ability to find solutions.
- Get On The Ball: If possible, sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair for part or all of your working day. This works your muscles, and the physical activity may result in reduced stress, improved cognition, and even improved mood.
- Post Puppy Pics: If you love your pet, post a picture of him or her at the office. Experiment with pictures of favorite pets, people, and places. Studies show a glance at your furry friend may lower stress and improve performance.
- 4-6-8 Breath: Whenever you need a little rejuvenation, take a big deep breath for four seconds. Hold that breath for six seconds. Exhale for eight seconds. This slow breathing triggers a relaxation response, helping you manage stress for best brain function.
- Super You: Pose like a super hero—hands on hips with elbows out for example—for two minutes or more. Research led by Amy Cuddy shows this stance increases testosterone and assertiveness and lowers cortisol and stress reactivity.
- Batch Your Email: Pick 2 or 3 times of day to check email, and shut it down other times of the day. People that check email at specific times of day experience less stress throughout the day.
Will you reassess, stave off and soothe stress for success?
We’d love to hear how this is working – or not working – for you. Simply comment on this blog or our Facebook page, or tweet to @ScottCrab so others can learn from you as well.