You’re feeling overwhelmed. Despite your best efforts, your to-do list is growing a lot faster than it’s shrinking. You realize that the stress at your job has begun to impact your relationships, your concentration, and your health. Sound familiar? Well you may have more control over the situation than you think.
Stress and Your Body
The adrenaline rush you feel at stressful times is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. This heightened state was important for our distant ancestors when faced with the dangers of their environment. A number of things happen, but the end result is that your body diverts energy away from non-essential things (such as digestion) and prepares for physical strain. Your heart rate and blood pressure shoot up and your senses become sharper. This allowed early humans to attack better, run quicker, and jump higher – all important things for keeping them alive. Unfortunately for you, these skills won’t get you very far when faced with a problem at the office.
The Nature of the Beast
When it comes to workplace health, the media loves to hype the impact of stress. While there are many legitimate disorders that have a tangible cost to the economy, articles often quote a multi-billion dollar figure in describing the cost of workplace stress. This kind of thinking encourages people to feel victimized by the difficulties they experience at work.
The key to understanding the problem is to consider your body’s response to sources of stress. In the end, our reactions are subjective, meaning that different people won’t be affected in the same way by the same situation. Ever wonder how some individuals seem to be constantly pulled in ten different directions, and yet remain calm and collected in everything they do? Granted, these people still have moments of panic like the rest of us, but they generally adapt well to the stress in their life. So what can be learned from these people… how can you reduce your stress level?
A Few Things to Try
So without relying on a certain pill with the vague commercial and the pages of side effects, there are a few things that might help you tackle your anxiety. You have a measure of control; to change your work environment and certainly your response to it. Even something as simple as altering your thinking about the stress in your life can have a positive effect. There are several books and courses that claim to help you make these changes. Now as a guarded realist, you’re thinking that a new mindset sounds like a great thing, but you’re still going to be left with a mountain of work once you get back to reality.
Something else to consider is that most people are reactive when it comes to stress at work. This means that they’ll often take steps to remedy problems only after they arise. You might want to try being a little more active in your approach. Anticipate future problems. Take steps to ensure that stressful issues don’t reoccur. Change the methods your group uses to complete projects. In the end, however, addressing the source of your stress may involve making some compromises. Knowing which ones to make is very important and something we’ll leave to you. You may have to explain to your boss that you really can’t take on a new task right now without sacrificing the quality of your other work.
You also may not be alone in your efforts to lower your stress level. Progressive companies have begun to realize that employees with balanced, healthy lives are often more productive. To this end, many have made an effort to reduce stress by getting involved in areas that have typically been outside their realm of influence. For example, many have started employee assistance programs where workers can receive free counseling and support. Others have incorporated flexible work schedules that recognize that life doesn’t always fit neatly around eight daytime hours. Even something as simple as a recreation program or on-site gym can have a positive impact on a company’s workforce.
So try not to write your job off as “stressful” and feel like you’re helpless to do anything about it. Try some of the things above and you might find that your work anxiety is a little more manageable.