Stress is part of the world that we live in. We often feel stress even before we leave the house in the morning. As working professionals, the question becomes how to manage stress, not necessarily eliminate it. You see, stress isn’t really bad, it’s how we respond to it.
What is stress? Stress can be defined as the feeling of distress or the physical, mental and emotional strain/tension. The American Institute of Stress (stress.org) Stress can be good and can increase our productivity. However, our bodies weren’t designed to handle constant stress that never goes away.
Cortisol and Fight or Flight
Have you heard of Fight or Flight? What about Cortisol? Fight or flight is the natural response in our body to danger. It’s a good thing and we were designed with this ability to be able to protect ourselves from impending danger. Think about meeting a bear in the woods. Our Fight or flight response is to flee. This is self-protection and when this happens, our Cortisol (stress hormone) goes very high in order to give us the ability to handle the danger and stress for that moment. Where the damage to our health can come in is when we do not ever ‘come down’ from the constant stress. This can lead to chronically high cortisol levels and many subsequent health problems.
Today, we live in a much different culture than our parents and grandparents did We have more financial and job pressure than ever before and the dual working home has added challenges to our generation that is unique like no other time in history. Women feel the pressure to maintain the old roles of cleaning the home, cooking and caring for the emotional and physical needs of her family-all while being an income earner in the family as well. Men often times feel a struggle between work and family balance along with trying to climb the ladder of success. We are constantly connected to our work as well. Without proper balance, we can receive email and texts from co-workers or clients all hours of the day and night.
In this demanding age we live in, what are the secrets to managing stress in the workplace?
- Set specific times in the evening and weekends where you disconnect and literally ‘break up’ with your phone. During these times, it’s important to do what you love (what makes your soul happy).
- Manage your calendar at the beginning of the month and again each week. Mark off days every week that are non-negotiables. These can be times for date night, concerts or games with kids or simply a day for worship and family.
- Manage your thought life. Remind yourself that much of the stress that we allow to burden us isn’t going to matter in a month or year from now. Keep the main thing the main thing. For me, the main thing is my faith in God, my marriage and my family. Work is fulfilling and purpose-filled, but it isn’t more important than the other priorities. Keep your thought life in check and your stress will naturally decrease.
- Exercise. Find something that you love to do-for-me it is walking outdoors. I walk nearly every day when weather permits, and this helps me stay relaxed.
Your Priority is You
In the workplace and in our American culture, stress cannot be avoided. However, we can learn how to manage our stress and be intentional about taking time each week and month to unwind and take care of ourselves which will help us to perform better in the workplace. Taking the steps listed above will increase your level of contentment in your personal and professional life. It’s important to remember that being ‘healthy’ is just small decisions that we make each day to add up to a healthy lifestyle. Choose to make yourself and your health a priority by managing your stress.