Tackle Work Stress With These Practical Tips

Happy woman at work
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Use these techniques to find your zen zone on the job.

The workplace: It’s where we spend one-third of each day and at least 90,000 hours in a lifetime. Research by Harvard Medical School, UCLA and the RAND Corporation found that the workplace in America is a “physically and emotionally taxing” place. What’s more, two-thirds of Americans say they work under tight deadlines, with 25 percent saying they lack the time to do their jobs.
 
Yet, when employees have higher levels of well-being at work, everyone wins. Employees enjoy their lives more in and out of the workplace, and employers see an increase in productivity.
 

Invest in Wellness

 
A 2010 study published in the journal Health Affairs found that for every dollar a company spends on a wellness program, its return on investment is $3.27. Employees feel valued their company cares about their well-being and, in turn, employee performance more than doubles, according to a study by Right Management. Researchers also found employees who take advantage of wellness programs contribute the equivalent of an extra day of work in productivity every month.
 
Toni Farris, a certified yoga instructor in Plano, Texas, teaches the art of mindfulness to businesses large and small. “We have a culture of suffering,” she says. “The more suffering you do, the more important you are.” We wear our overworked status as a badge of honor, which may lead, she explains, to a false sense of value and security. “It’s not helpful.”
 
She should know. Before embarking on her mindful journey, Toni worked for the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, and the stress wreaked havoc on her health. Overworking yourself leads to stress, she notes. The decision-making process narrows and the quality of the work can be affected.
 
“Strategy and balance, both physical and emotional, come from a relaxed place,” she says. Talk with your human resources department to bring someone like Toni into the office. If a mindfulness consultant isn’t an option, she offers a few tips to get you started:
 

Be Nice

 
Compassion is a kind of social superglue that holds everything together. Christopher Kukk, Ph.D., author of The Compassionate Achiever: How Helping Others Fuels Success, finds that compassion can create a friendlier and happier workplace, increase productivity and improve health.
 
“When we think from a compassionate mindset, we release the peptide hormone oxytocin, which then activates the neurotransmitters dopamine (brain reward) and serotonin (anxiety reduction), which facilitate happiness and optimism—two characteristics that contribute to success,” he says.
 
To change your mindset to be more compassionate at work, Christopher recommends changing your feelings about achieving success. “If you believe, for instance, that your own as well as your organizational successes were achieved by you alone, then you are—simply stated—lying to yourself,” he says.
 
He suggests reflecting on how your success has benefited from others. This will make you more inclined to contribute to the successes of your colleagues. “When compassion flows, a business grows,” he adds.
 

Get More Shut-Eye

 
According to The Sainsbury’s Living Well Index conducted by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research in the U.K., 50 percent of participants polled would rather have a good night’s sleep than a pay raise. Matthew Walker, Ph.D., Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab and author of the new book Why We Sleep, says that more than $400 billion in our economy is lost due to poor sleeping habits. What’s more, sleep deficits make us more prone to lying at work and other deviant behaviors. The sleepless also lack in areas of creativity, problem solving and charisma.
 
“Every key facet required for business success will fail when sleep becomes short within an organization,” he says. One thing we can do is drop the mindset that more sleep equates to laziness. “The global sleep-loss epidemic is fast becoming one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century,” he says. “I hope the many chapters on the disease, sickness and ill health that comes by way of sleep loss makes this case clear.”
 
Aside from the obvious health benefits of sleep—it builds a strong immune system, lowers risks of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes and depression—it also improves our performance at work. Employees who sleep more, according to Matthew’s book, earn more money, too. Just an extra hour of sleep can improve your financial situation.
 

Quick Biz Tips
 

TAKE A STAND
• According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reducing occupational sitting by 66 minutes per day can boost your mood and reduce upper back and neck pain.
 
EAT LUNCH WITH COLLEAGUES
• Cornell University researchers studied firehouses in large cities and witnessed that workgroup performance was enhanced when
firefighters broke bread together.

KEEP IT POSITIVE
• In her book Conscious Communications, entrepreneur and author Mary Shores recommends stopping yourself when you start to think or talk in a negative way. She says that the words we use define who we are, and the negativity can spread throughout an office and even to the customer.

 

Toni’s Tips for Tackling Stress

 
BEFORE WORK: 
• Use an alarm clock with a soothing tone. Waking up in a panic is never good.
• Try getting ready in the morning without the TV or radio. Incorporate more silence.
• Add an extra 20 to 30 minutes to your routine so you are not in a rush.
 
AT WORK:
• Find a quiet space in your office for about 10 to 15 minutes, and use a mindfulness/meditation app. In a pinch, use your car.
• After lunch is the best time to relax. Rest and digest is the opposite of fight or flight. You will feel better for the remainder of the day after a constructive rest.
• If possible, let your co-workers know you need time to process any requests before committing.
 
AFTER WORK:
• Set boundaries with yourself and work. Don’t answer emails or calls after a certain time.
• Turn off electronics one hour before bed. This will help your brain decompress.
 

Chris Libby is the Section Editor at Live Happy magazine.

 

From the February 2018 issue of Live Happy magazine.

 

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