07 Dec Techniques for managing work-related stress and anxiety
Prolonged stress resulting from work is detrimental to health if left unmanaged. But some surprisingly easy methods can be implemented to prevent any damage. We’ve curated a list of techniques – highly recommended by Doctor Caroline Leaf – that will help you navigate through stressful situations, whether you work at home or in the office.
Learn to re-conceptualise
Re-framing negative thoughts into good ones is otherwise known as ‘re-conceptualising’. It’s a creative process that sees someone establish the reasoning behind a negative thought and turn it on its head. Simply put, that could mean congratulating yourself for completing tasks at bedtime as opposed to punishing yourself for tasks left uncompleted. It may seem like another word for ‘positive thinking’, but ‘re-conceptualising’ isn’t just swapping out bad thoughts for better ones, it relies on you establishing why a negative thought was there in the first place, and training your brain not to jump to that line of thinking in the first instance.
Top tip: Dr Caroline Leaf has built an app called ‘switch’ that helps people learn how to re-conceptualise their thoughts. It’s free to download on the Apple store or the Play store. Keeping a thought journal is also a good idea, so you can work out what stimulates negative thoughts or feelings of irritation. If you find stress stops you sleeping, write what you’re thinking about down. That way, you’ve physically removed those worries from your head and boxed them away to deal with later. But remember, noting them down is a temporary solution to allow your body to sleep. Set a reminder to look at those thoughts and develop solutions for them the next day. Otherwise they’ll continue to eat away at your conscience.
Painting, gardening, reading, listening to music, playing an instrument; creative hobbies are a brilliant form of therapy for an anxious brain. Spending an hour or two a week on a personal project provides a much needed ‘screen break’ and an incredible sense of satisfaction. It’s a form of mindfulness, too. Just without the intensity of meditation which is often easier said than done. You don’t have to be arty to get creative, either. In fact, there’s so much joy to be found in finding the freedom to be bad at something. And the distraction of being creative is where the health benefits lie. Being creative gives you confidence in your ability because, despite the road to success not being simple, those learnings in between help you grow and take pride in your achievements. Importantly, it doesn’t matter how ‘successful’ your project is – it should be a pleasurable process with no consequences. The success comes from doing rather than completing.
Top tip: Thinking up a creative hobby doesn’t need to be difficult. Anything that remotely takes your interest is all it takes. If you don’t have a spare two hours a week, things like cooking, doodling, and reading before you go to bed all count. Engaging the creative part of your brain also helps develop your ‘thinker mindset’ (see below) – another effective stress relief technique.
Swap processed food for nutrient-dense foods
Nutrition is linked to your mental health in several ways. Take omegas for example; they help build and strengthen something called the myelin sheath, which in turn helps us process information more effectively. But did you know that, on the flipside, a lack of important nutrients can increase your chances of developing anxious feelings? Keeping your intake of junk food low and your intake of water and natural herbs high will put you in good stead.
Top tip: Swap sugary snacks that are often rife in the office for nuts and seeds which are packed with omega 3s, 6s and 9s.
Set aside ‘breathing time’
Breathing in a deliberate way dissipates cortisol, the hormone released by the body in response to stress. Cortisol is a normal, healthy reaction, except when left unmanaged. Minor stress pushes you out of your comfort zone in a good way, but toxic stress can have a disastrous effect on your mental wellbeing. By setting aside time in the day to breathe properly, you can regulate a cortisol overload. The same works for specifically stressful situations at work, just take a few minutes at your desk or elsewhere to focus on breathing deeply.
Top tip: Pressing your left nostril, breathe in for three seconds. Hold for three seconds and then exhale for three seconds. Repeat this several times before switching to your right nostril and doing the same. If you’re in the office, you can follow the same steps without pressing ay nostrils!
Take breaks from social media
Dr Leaf advocates the importance of the ‘thinker mindset’ which means letting your mind wander without distraction from external happenings like social media. It’s important to remember that the latter is not the full story, either. Social platforms represent a glorified snapshot of an individual’s life. The not-so-fun stuff doesn’t make the cut and that’s not because it doesn’t exist. It’s easy to take the view that everyone else is leading a consistently happy and fulfilled life when that simply isn’t true. Ups and downs are a normal part of human existence. In fact, it’s the downs that give us the ammo we need to grow and develop as unique people.
Top tip: Log out of your social media accounts on Sunday nights and log back in on Friday afternoons to allow your thinker mindset to develop. It sometimes pays to take an extended break from social media, too. Opt for a three week ban that will encourage you to separate your mind from the outside world.
If your stress levels are consistently high, it could be your job that’s the problem. To speak to a Recruitment Consultant about current job opportunities, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01481 729340.