Dealing with Stress at Work and at Home
By Christina Radziejewski
Researchers in the medical and psychopathology disciplines have found that stress has many ill effects on both the brain and body if it is not under control or managed well. The effects of stress are made worse when paired with an existing medical condition such as hypertension or a poor immune system. Chronic stress, if left untreated, can cause long term harm to the individual, especially in later age.
However, stress can be managed and controlled. There have also been reports of improved learning and memory abilities following chronic stress, and even an improved quality of life when stress is under control.
Dealing with Stress at Work
Long-term consequences of stress in old age can be avoided, or at least alleviated, through consistent stress management interventions by individuals, and by employers.
Stress has become so prevalent within organizations that stress management interventions have become the norm in some workplaces. Here are some suggestions for stress management strategies that employers could adopt in their workplaces:
- Teach progressive muscle relaxation techniques, visualization, meditation and yoga to employees who may find these methods helpful.
- Encourage employees to team up with their co-workers for friendly game during the lunch hour, take part in friendly competition, or community activities, such as a food drive, or volunteer at local community activities.
- Encourage employees to take time out for a walk in the park during lunch and tea breaks is also a great way to de-stress and to refresh one’s mind to engage the rest of the work day.
- Ensure a culture of respect and professionalism in workplaces, and employ individuals who are appropriately trained and well suited for the roles for which they were hired.
- Employers could also provide regular training sessions, bring in speakers on popular topics, to motivate employees and to inculcate an environment of learning.
- Employers must ensure that they consistently uphold the organization’s policies against bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace. A zero-tolerance policy on these types of activities tells employees that their employer cares for their personal wellbeing at work.
- Employers must also make provision for employees to seek counselling when these are required or requested by employees.
The majority of these activities can be implemented at very little cost, and can be started immediately. Others may require skilled consultants, for example, in meditation and yoga, exercise, nutrition, counselling, and career assessments.
Dealing with Stress at Home
Steps can also be taken at home to ensure that the effects of stress are not suffered in the long term, nor affect family life.
- Build up a strong support group of family and friends are positive influences during stressful experiences. People with lower levels of chronic interpersonal stress have better relationships and are able to call on their social support systems when stressors arise. Tip: Make it a point to meet with a family member or friend on a regular basis, whether it is weekly, every couple of weeks, or once a month. Make it your special time, a time to unload some of the challenges that you are facing. Don’t forget to also share the many positives that are also happening in your life. Meet for lunch, chat over coffee, or simply go for a walk.
- Keep fit through physical activities is another way to manage stress. Some find hiking, running and biking to be a great way to de-stress after a long day at work. Others may head to the gym, meet with friends for a game or two, or take part in competitive activities. Tip: Set yourself a goal, whether it is weight loss, or a certain daily caloric level. Goals help us to focus. Don’t forget to celebrate milestones along the way, even the small ones. Every step counts.
- It is also important for individuals to take time out for themselves on a regular, if not daily, basis. Learning to wind down after a long day by taking a bath, reading a novel, playing an instrument, or journaling, are ways in which individuals could nourish themselves, and recuperate from a day of work and from taking care of others. Tip: Switch off all electronic gadgets or put them in silent mode. Ahhh, this is a hard one for some of us! Try it though, and you may just find that you can survive for an hour without your cell phone, ipad or computer.
- Engage in a hobby that can help to take your mind away from the responsibilities of life, such as singing, painting, or gardening. Tip: Again, set yourself a goal. Take part in the annual Sun Run, singing competitions, or have your art exhibited. Whatever it is, immerse yourself such that it takes away the stresses of daily life, even for an hour or two every week.
- Eat a healthy diet, low in fat and sugars. Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) for your weight and height. Tip: Set yourself an achievable goal and don’t forget to celebrate along the way!
- Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep every night. Tip: Create a sleep routine with at least a half-hour winding down time.
- Avoid drinking excessively, and no smoking. Tip: If you’re a social drinker who finds comfort in an occasional bout of excessive drinking or smoking, find a buddy who can help you when the desire to drink kicks in.
- Learn some easy relaxation exercises to counter moments of stress. Tips: Coming soon!
It is evident that stress is an inescapable consequence of life and all individuals will suffer some form of stress at some point in their lives. Individuals respond differently to stressors and will exhibit different outcomes after major life events. However, those who do not manage stress well may become vulnerable to long term effects such as depression and coronary heart disease.
Innova Centre for Counselling & Psychotherapy offers counselling to help individuals deal with their workplace issues, including stress management and bullying.