Americans are stressed out, and the workplace seems to be one of the primary breeding grounds. In fact, a study conducted by the American Psychological Association concluded that 69 percent of respondents felt work was the most common source of stress.
Simply put, stress is the emotional or mental tension created when we enter situations where demands are high, but we have limited control. This has been associated with increased rates of heart attacks, hypertension and other health disorders.
When you feel your stress level increasing, consider these four suggestions:
- Breathe – Breathing is your body’s built-in stress reliever, so when you feel stressed, stop what you’re doing and concentrate on breathing deeply and slowly for a few minutes. Deep breathing can lower blood pressure, dampen the production of stress hormones and even energize you.
- Eat Smart – Stress causes the cortisol levels in the body to rise. Too much of this hormone can result in food cravings, especially for carbs and sweets in women. And research shows the more we eat, the worse our mood gets. So rather than hitting the vending machine for empty calories, consider healthier options like cashews, which are high in zinc (low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression). Blue berries are another great snack because they’re rich in vitamin C, known to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.
- Listen to Music – Research shows that listening to music can help by triggering biochemical stress reducers in the body. In fact, one study found that music’s effect on anxiety levels is similar to the effect of getting a massage. So if you work in an environment that allows you to play music, even if it’s with the use of earphones, turn on the tunes. But be sure to choose music that doesn’t interfere with your productivity. Also check out smartphone apps like Focus@Will and Take a Break.
- Walk – Just like other forms of exercise, walking causes your body to release chemicals called endorphins. They interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce the perception of pain and trigger positive feelings. Even a quick, brisk walk around your building can have the desired stress-relieving effect.
It may take a while to determine what stress-reduction strategy is right for you. But if you’re having difficulty managing it on your own, have a conversation with your physician. Certain underlying medical conditions can contribute to stress, but most can be managed with the right intervention.