New Year, New Tips To Handle Work Stress

By Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D. Stress is on the rise in the United States. In a recent APA survey, Americans reported a 44% increase in their stress over the past five years. What are people worried about?  Money, relationships, work and the economy are at the top of the list.  Work is a popular concern. Not only are individuals worried about losing their jobs in this down economy but also about increased job responsibilities and difficult interpersonal relationships.  All this worry impacts your sleep, physical and mental health, and productivity. It also erodes your ability to be patient when dealing with others—all things that can make working more difficult and put your job at risk.

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. The good news is you can change this. There are simple steps you can take that will help you manage your stress and improve your quality of life. Below are proven stress reduction suggestions you can use at work and at home.

While at work build into your day these three tips.

1. Walk away from what is stressing you and take regular breaks. Time-outs are not just for toddlers. They are an effective coping strategy that will allow you to clear your mind and refocus, as well as be more productive and creative.

2. Take deep breaths. Shallow breathing increases anxiety, while deep, slow breathing helps calm your mind and body.

3. Stretch your tense muscles. For example, progressive muscle relaxation sends your brain a message that you are safe and relaxed which helps reduce stress and anxiety.

While at home, try these habits regularly to decrease your stress.

1. Practice yoga. Even a few minutes will help calm your mind and relax your body.

2. Use imagery. Imagine yourself in a safe place, such as the beach or a cabin in the mountains. If imagining a peaceful place is difficult, you can use memories from a favorite vacation spot or familiar personal sanctuary (even if it’s just your favorite bench in Central Park).  Your memories will trigger positive feelings and distract you from your stress at the same time.

3. Speak to a trusted friend or family member. Share what is upsetting you, whether in person or over the phone. Social support is a great stress reducer and mood enhancer.

Preventing stress before you feel it is even better. Follow these suggestions to stop the stress before it hits.

1. Have open communication with your supervisors/bosses about what projects you are working on and their status.

2. Ask for help when you need it. We all require assistance at some point. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.

3. Create a detailed list of work requirements and deadlines. This way you don't waste mental energy keeping track of what needs to get done and instead focus on how to accomplish those tasks.

If these tips are not enough, consider talking to a mental health provider that specializes in stress management.

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