Small amounts of short-term stress can actually improve your performance at work, but when the stress becomes chronic it can lead to a range of health complications including depression, insomnia and high blood pressure. If work is a source of stress for you, it is important to take control before it becomes overwhelming.
While unfortunately we can’t always control our responsibilities or the people we interact with at work – we can control how we respond to such stressors. By cultivating resilience and practicing mindfulness, you should gain control over workplace stress. Try the following techniques:
Establish a meditation practice
More and more evidence is turning up saying that mindfulness meditation helps to lower stress levels. Take advantage by establishing a regular practice – just 10 minutes a day could help you to become more aware of your emotions and more able to cope with difficult situations as they arise.
Ease physical tension
When we become stressed, our bodies tend to hold physical tension. Sometimes by relaxing ourselves physically, we can ease the pressure mentally. When you are sitting at your desk, take a few minutes and focus your attention on your hands and shoulders. If you find that your hands/shoulders are feeling tight, recognise how this may exacerbate the mental tension you feel. Breathe deeply and relax your muscles, bringing your attention to the physical sensation of being relaxed.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Stress often leads to irritability and guilt, leading you to be negative and self-punishing in your inner dialogue. Next time you are giving yourself a hard time, look to change the language you use when talking about yourself.
You may want to practice this by writing an accusatory statement in the second person (e.g. ‘you are incompetent for missing the deadline’) and then re-phrasing it in the first person using more constructive and non-judgemental language (e.g. ‘I spent too long searching for a missing file that led to me missing the deadline – how can I avoid this in the future?’). Thinking about the solution rather than the problem will help to reduce feelings of guilt and blame.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed at work, so if you have a goal in mind – such as being more open minded in meetings – set it as an intention before you get to work. Remind yourself of your intentions throughout the day and take three deep breathes before responding to colleagues, emails or answering the phone.