According to the World Health Organization, work-related stress is the second most common health problem affecting ⅓ of employees in the EU. The impact that stress can have on a person’s wellbeing is huge from damaging your DNA, mental illnesses and could end up leading to a burnout.
As many employees will now be set to work from home for an extended period, taking care of their mental health and learning how to deal with feeling stressed is very important. When people get stressed their body automatically triggers a series of different physiological changes, their hearts beat faster, breathing quicken, muscles get tenser and some start to sweat. These changes that occur have evolved over time and are called “fight or flight response” where the body goes into survival mode.
So how can we deal with “fight or flight” stress-related responses?
When someone gets stressed, the body’s natural response is switch to faster and shallower breathing. Diaphragmatic Breathing is a deep breathing technique in which you breathe with your abdomen instead of your chest. Slow, deep ‘belly’ breathing can help to reset the nervous system and if incorporated into daily life and help to lower the body’s response to stress.
Muscles getting tense, raising your shoulders or clenching your jaw are all signs of stress. Progressive Muscle Relaxation was developed in the 1920s by American physician Edmund Jacobson. The idea behind PMR is to deliberately contract each muscle group for 10 seconds at a time and releasing it for 20 seconds before moving onto the next muscle group, starting from your head to your toes, one muscle group at a time. After finishing a PMR exercise your whole body should feel a lot more relaxed and less tense.
A simple practice developed in the 1960s by Dr. Bensen to counter the natural ‘fight or flight’ response. The main characteristics of the Relaxation Response technique is to sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on a single word or phrase whilst practicing abdominal deep breathing. You repeat the word or phrase until you reach full concentration. This is great to banish any negative thoughts or that one thing that is making you feel stressed.
Mindfulness is something you may have heard of, but never really practised. It can be difficult to be mindful when caught up with our hectic daily lives and get carried away with our thoughts. Mindfulness focusses on the here and now. Set aside some time to sit quietly and push away thoughts that aren’t important to the present moment. It can help to put a space between ourselves and our reactions. Mindfulness Meditation can help you to achieve greater awareness of the present and in turn, give you a clearer and more authentic perception of situations to reduce stress and improve how you manage with stress.
Similar to the Relaxation Response technique, Transcendental Meditation requires you to sit with your eyes closed and repeat a ‘mantra’ (a sound or vibration) specific and unique to each person. It can help to create a shift between being ‘aware’ and being in a restful and relaxed state helping to lower your heart rate, slow your breathing and help to loosen the tightened knot you can sometimes feel in your chest while stressed.
Although there are many other techniques, these were our favourite ones.
Taking a brisk walk (or any exercise of your choice) to alleviate the accumulation of stress and a great way to relax and help to feel calm. Not only can it help to get rid of muscle tension, but it can also help to clear your mind and focus on something else other than the thing you are stressed about.
Talking to someone close to you can definitely help to alleviate the feeling of stress. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Just a text or phone call can be all that is needed to help talk about something that is on your mind. The buffering effect supports the idea that if you have close emotional support you can cope with any stress or adverse situations much better.
If feeling particularly stressed at work talking to your manager and discussing what you think can help or talking about any issues is important. They may be able to provide advice or suggest a solution for any work-related stress.