Work Zen: 4 Tips to Reduce Stress on the Job
Stressed out at work? You’re not alone. Studies have shown that 80 percent of workers in America suffer from stress on the job.
Regardless of what you do for a living, almost every job involves some combination of everyday stressors. Challenging expectations, huge workloads, unreasonable deadlines or interpersonal conflict have the potential to do more than make your job less enjoyable. They can also contribute to some serious health issues.
To combat stress, employees across the country are embracing “mindfulness,” a science-backed practice that helps people focus on the task at hand and block out negative thoughts or feelings.
Proven ways to reduce stress at work:
- Take a breath
One of the best tools to reduce stress is something you do all the time without thinking about: breathing. Simple, deep breathing exercises are scientifically proven to have a positive effect on the heart, brain, gut and immune system.
Start with an easy five-minute breathing exercise. Get in a meditative position in a quiet place and focus on nothing but your breathing. Sooner or later during the exercise, your mind will wander. It’s OK. Just recognize it, shrug it off and bring your focus back to breathing — in and out — for as long as possible.
- Limit interruptions and distractions
Are you good at multitasking? Research shows you’re probably not. In fact, only 2.5 percent of all people are able to multitask effectively. The brain isn’t wired to split attention between two complex tasks. Instead, it simply darts between tasks — preventing you from giving each the attention it deserves. Balancing multiple tasks with distractions such as text messages and social media updates makes you even less effective and more vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress.
Do everything you can to focus on one task at a time and limit distractions. This could mean turning off updates from your phone, staying away from email until completing whatever you’re working on and generally avoiding the temptation to do two things at once.
- Think positively
When you’re under stress, it’s easy to get pessimistic. This is actually an important evolutionary feature of the human stress response — when you’re worried about being attacked by a saber-toothed tiger, survival may depend on thinking of everything that can go wrong. But since a majority of workplaces are tiger-free these days, thinking optimistically is a better way to interrupt the brain’s natural stress patterns.
Fortunately, there are ways to train our brain into thinking positively. Dr. Loretta Breuning, a California State University professor and author of the “The Science of Positivity” suggests that if you intentionally reflect on three happy things a day, you can eventually train your brain into noticing positive things instead of negative ones.
Similarly, as noted by Psychology Today, thinking about aspects of your job you’re grateful for can make you feel happier and more content. This approach can reduce stress and create a positive feedback loop.
- Seek change when you need it
One of the sneakiest facts about stress, in the workplace or anywhere else, is that it’s a hard-wired response the body engages as a survival instinct. If you find yourself frequently and chronically stressed, that’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re enduring work — not enjoying it.
You may want to explore your options. No matter how good you get at practicing mindfulness, there’s no surer way to limit stress in the workplace than to find a job that supports your physical and mental health as much as it does your career.
If your job is stressing you out, it might be time for a change. Visit our job board to find your next great opportunity.