Everyone experiences stress at work once in a while. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you have looming deadlines, are working through an especially busy time of year or have difficulties at home lingering on your mind. Our bodies are capable of handling occasional stress, but if you feel constantly on edge and stressed out at work, it can have serious deleterious effects on your health. The CDC took several studies into account and reported that some early symptoms of prolonged stress are headaches, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, short temper and upset stomach. Young Insurance wants to offer you some tips on how to relieve stress at work if you are experiencing these symptoms.
- Get enough sleep. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night will make you feel calmer and less exhausted by stressful situations at work, but this is obviously easier said than done. In most cases, it’s not that people are irresponsibly staying up until 3 a.m. when they have to be in to work the next morning at 8 a.m., but that they are experiencing insomnia, made worse by the fact that they’re thinking about work and getting stressed out. It’s a vicious cycle. Here are some steps you can take to help curb insomnia:
- Cut afternoon caffeine intake. This takes a lot of discipline. When you’re suffering from chronic stress and sleep loss, sometimes the only thing keeping you awake and alert is caffeine. The problem is too much late in the day will disrupt your sleep. The half-life of caffeine is 4-6 hours, and it can take your body up to 1 hour to absorb it, so if you go to bed at 10 p.m., you shouldn’t be consuming caffeine any later than 3 p.m., to ensure all caffeine has left your system by bedtime.
- Have a set bedtime. If your bedtime is “whenever I fall asleep,” you should try to stick to a routine. This will help train your brain to know when it’s time to sleep.
- No screen time an hour before bed. The pixelated, flashing lights in TV and computer screens send signals to our brains that keep us awake. Aim to have no screen time at least an hour before you go to bed.
- Don’t spend time in bed unless you’re sleeping. For many of us, our bed is like a second couch or desk. We read, watch TV or work on our laptops in bed. Try to break this habit. If you quit spending waking time in bed, you’ll help train your body and mind to associate your bed with going to sleep.
- Take non-prescription sleep aids. While there is a very serious risk of dependence with many sleep aids, there are milder ones, such as the drug found in Tylenol PM, which if taken only in the short term, may help you get to sleep without becoming addicted.
- See a doctor. Hospitals have entire departments dedicated to sleep disorders for a reason. No matter how healthy their habits, some people still experience insomnia. If you’ve tried all of the above and still cannot get a good night’s sleep for a prolonged period of time, you should seek help from a doctor.
- Walk during your lunch break. It’s well known that exercise increases energy, sharpens focus and will make you healthier. Getting into a daily exercise routine is great, but even if you don’t have the time, taking a 15 minute walk in the middle of the day will help you clear your head and reduce stress for the remainder of the day. Listening to some of your favorite music on your walk will also put you in a better mood. Try to keep snow boots and other gear with you at work, since it won’t be a pleasant, sunny stroll for those of us living in colder climates in the winter!
- Resist perfectionism. Sometimes the stress we feel at work is stress we put on ourselves! If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. If you have too much on your plate, ask for help. Try not to worry about things out of your control. Nobody is perfect, and being mindful of this will help you feel more relaxed at work.
- Be comfortable. Physical discomfort can contribute to stress. If your chair isn’t comfortable, your phone is in an awkward place, or you have to put your neck in a weird position to see your screen, rearrange your desk or talk to your supervisor or HR rep about getting new equipment.
- Lean on others for support. Just like in our personal lives, talking out our problems with people we trust can help us sort out our thoughts and feelings and be more in control. Also, your coworkers may be able to share advice on how they deal with stress.
- Breathe! You’d be amazed how much just setting aside a few minutes to focus on taking deep breaths will calm you down. If your heart is racing and you feel like you’re about to panic, stop and clear your mind of everything but your breathing. Don’t begin working again until you’re able to breathe calmly and steadily and get your heart rate down. You’ll be more productive when you aren’t so frazzled.
- See a doctor. The steps above may help you alleviate stress, but there is no substitute for care from a medical professional if you are feeling perpetually stressed out and experiencing negative physical and mental effects associated with that stress. You may have an underlying condition that is exacerbating the stress you feel at work.
The team at Young Insurance hopes these tips will help you stay happy, healthy and satisfied at work!