stressed at work

How to Deal with Stress at Work

Stress is a useful and required for a normal, healthy, functioning body. In fact, a little stress is necessary in order to help you feel more alert, more focussed and more productive. If we never had any stress, we’d probably never get anything done!  In this article, we’ll look at some ways to deal with stress at work.

The key is to make sure that your stress levels are at an optimal level, and your natural cycles to line up with the times when you need to be most productive during the day.

Let’s start with your morning, before you even get to work.

Get rid of your alarm

Alarms work because the sudden noises they make are unnatural – they make us sit up and take notice. They trigger a stress response.

And now bear in mind that when this happens, you are often in the very deepest stage of sleep.

smartwatch alarmOne option is to use a fitness tracker/smart watch that has a smart alarm function. These work by monitoring your heartrate and your movement during the night, in order to estimate how awake or asleep you are at any given stage. Using this information, they can then wake you up at the point when you’re in light REM sleep, rather than deep sleep. The result is that you’re woken at a point when you’re already coming around anyway – and this is combined with a gentle nudge from a vibration, rather than a loud ringing.

Rush hour

Commuting to work at peak hour is one of the worst things you can do for your stress levels throughout the day.  A typical commute will trigger fear. Moving something quickly towards a person’s face will cause them to recoil and to see an increase in their heartrate and their stress response. Now think about a typical commute – filled with people moving rapidly towards you, lots of noise, lots of pollution and generally huge amounts of chaos. train commuters

If you’re stuck in traffic surrounded by cars and trucks going nowhere and having horns blaring is very stressful!

Before your day has even begun, you’ll be experiencing huge amounts of stress.
This might be outside of your control. But if it is within your control, then avoid this kind of commute. Even just going in an hour earlier to avoid the rush-hour may be a good choice.

If you need to drive, listen to some music or something you enjoy.  Instead of getting frustrated and having road rage, listen to a podcast of something you’re interested in or that inspires you – you will be much happier and calmer by the time you get to work!

Once you’re at work, there are certain things you can do to help you deal with stress at work.

Skip the coffee

Coffee works by triggering a stress response.
It starts by mimicking adenosine in your brain. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. As adenosine builds up, the more tired you get and the less active the brain becomes.  When you drink coffee, the caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. Caffeine has the opposite effect of adenosine. Caffeine gives you an instant boost in energy levels by making you feel more awake and focussed.
This also leads to a general increase in brain activity though and this is where the stress response comes in. The brain notices this sudden wakefulness and what do you know, it assumes that something very important must be going on. And then you get a release of more neurotransmitters associated with stress, like adreline. This increases the heartrate, dilates the pupils, muscles tighten … in other words, it creates a stress response.

Caffeine in itself is not bad. In small doses it can help boost memory and wakefulness and may have some other health benefits. But what it also is, is a quick way to make any stressful situation worse. If you’ve got a busy day, you just commuted during rush hour and you sit down at work to drink a big cup of coffee, you’re only going to make yourself more stressed and wired.
And guess what? Once again, this is going to result in a crash shortly afterward when your energy levels have been depleted.  Don’t drink caffeine as part of a routine. Drink it when you need that extra push – don’t rely on it and don’t combine it with other stressors.

Manage your blood sugar

One very simple way to keep your stress at bay, is to avoid letting your blood sugar drop too low. Low blood sugar triggers the release of cortisol and other stress hormones.

The best way to manage your blood sugar levels, is to avoid consuming simple carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the best source of blood sugar for the human body but the problem is that in their simple form, they release energy into the blood much too quickly. This results in a sudden spike in sugar, which then gets taken up and leaves you drained again. Not ideal for working.

If you have pancakes and syrup, it will wake you up and make you feel good in the morning but an hour later you’ll start to run low on energy and that will cue the release of cortisol.

avocado on plateTry consuming a source of calories that will release the sugar more gradually into your bloodstream. A great choice is some form of complex carbohydrate, such as oats. This takes longer to reach the blood stream, providing a steady stream of blood sugar and prevents you from going into alert ‘starvation’ mode.

When you consume a fat, this will sit in the stomach while it gets broken down, providing you with a steady release of energy that will help you go about your business throughout the day.  Try avocados for a source of good fats.

Stay comfortable

Comfort is fantastic for reducing stress. It only takes your keys to be digging into your pocket for example, for your body to consider you as uncomfortable and potentially being damaged. If you can sit in a more supportive and comfortable chair, in a comfortable temperature, surrounded by things that put you at ease (plants have been shown to do this well for most people), then you will start to feel a lot calmer – even when you’re at work and other stresses are being thrown at you.

Spend time away from screens

Computers, smartphones and television are all great – for entertainment and increasing productivity. Unfortunately, they’re bad for us when it comes to stress hormones. Light from screens can trigger the release of cortisol. Constant messages and alerts essentially trigger a series of small stress responses while we’re surfing the web.

This is manageable but it becomes problematic when you spend too much time on the computer. Simply going for occasional walks and taking breaks from the screen throughout the day are great wayw to help your body recover.  Take a break and use the Best Stress Relief Technique to help get you through the day.

Another tip is to take time off just before bed. If you aim to have a restorative and restful night’s sleep, then you need to give yourself time to wind down before you go to sleep. Taking time away from computers is one of the best ways to do this.Have a bath before bed with some candles instead. Or read a real book. Give yourself half an hour of screen off time before bed and you’ll get to sleep much quicker and feel more refreshed when you wake up.

Clean up

clean deskAt the end of your working day, clear your desk.  This routine will be a signal to your brain that the working day is over and you can start to relax.  It will also make it less stressful for you the next morning – when you see a clean desk, it’s like a fresh start but if your desk is messy from yesterday, you go into stress and overwhelm.

 

Conclusion

You may not be able to get rid of all the stress in your life (and nor should you), but too much stress is not sustainable.  We need to learn how to deal with stress at work in order to maintain a healthy, balanced life.  We’ve given you some useful tips to get you started.  Do you have any other stress relief tips?

 

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Jenny is a working woman, seeker of health and peace on earth.

18 thoughts on “How to Deal with Stress at Work

  1. I totally agree with getting rid of loud, scary alarms. That is very stressful to suddenly get woken from a sound sleep.

    Probably a good idea to listen to some soothing and relaxing meditation music during rush hour. We bought our house two miles from our jobs to avoid that mess.

    I always waited to have my coffee once I got to work. Great tip.

    I am type 2 diabetic so I am very aware of the blood sugar issues. Thanks for reminding me.

    Yes, computer screens, cell phones, tablets, they are everywhere in out lives today and looking at them all day can be very stressful and not so good on your eyes either.

    When I get home from work, I like to hang out with my dogs and cats and that helps me unwind from the day.

    Thank you for all this great information.

  2. Thank you for this great article how to deal with stress at work. Someone should have told me to stop drinking coffee a long time ago because I have a cup of coffee every morning before work. And believe it or not after reading this article it comes to me that maybe on a days where I do not have coffee I am not so stressed out. 

    Thank you for this very informative article and all this great information that you shared.

  3. This is a really interesting post I agree with these because reliving stress is always a good thing to do especially if you are  getting to much of it. These are really good ways to take your stress level down, me personally I have found a way to keep my stress level small. 

    Mindset does have a huge impact on your stress level to and meditation has helped me and I do it any time I feel like I am getting to stressed. Plus music is always a good option, to have on your own commute and if you are in a position where you are stressed some ear buds are a lifesaver.

    Thanks for this I know a lot will learn from this article about how to deal with stress at work.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post, it indicates so many ways we can get stressed throughout the day without realizing we are. Such seemingly small and simple things can cause stress. Great info on the fit watch to wake you up in the appropriate part of your sleep cycle. I find it a really horrible start to the day to be woken by an alarm.

    1. Thanks Ann. Yes, blating alarms are a shock to the system. Change your alarm to an upbeat song you like so you wake up smiling instead!

  5. Hi Jenny

    You have some great tips on what causes stress, and in fact what stress actually is, many of which I was not aware.

    For example, although I have always found alarms really annoying, it had never occurred to me that they also cause stress. Your tip to use a smart alarm is a really great idea. I have never used one of those – is it still possible to wake up at the time which you need to when using one of those.

    Nor had I ever realised that coffee can be a cause of stress. that is a bit of a downer!! I consider myself to be comparatively free of stress, but you have made me reconsider that!!

    I also like your advice to eat foods which have a slow energy release. I must admit that I am a great believer in porridge at breakfast time!

    Very many thanks for an exremely helpful and informative post.

    Chrissie 🙂

  6. One of the ways I deal with stress is actually avoiding to get stressed. Whatever might be a risk leading me to stress, I ensure that I don’t keep it to myself. I speak to my significant other, or someone I know i can get valuable advise from. That way, I’m able to clear the burden of my mind and share concerns that might lead to stress.

  7. Your tips make a lot of sense, but I really like my coffee and bagel in the morning – it’s bad I know, but the enjoyment factor has to be balanced in, IMHO. I’m all for no alarms and/or commutes or making the most of my commute with Christian music and podcasts.

    I do follow up my coffee and bagel with a second breakfast (then a very light lunch), usually an egg sandwich, so I’m covered on the blood sugar issue.

    Too many screens – I’m with you on this one, as well. I used to watch TV before bedtime, but not anymore, I just listen to a great podcast I really like while relaxing before bed – this helps a lot to keep my stress factors very low.

    Cheers to your low stress ideas – I like it.

  8. Thank you for this article, very much great information in it. 

    I agree about the sleep, that it can be stressful to wake up with a noisy alarm. I tried to use soft music and it was better. But I have used the smartwatch, like you mention,  to have a better idea how I sleep. Even so, man can not take it as 100% fact.But you mention a possibility which is brilliant, and that is let the smartwatch wake you up on right time, with the sleeping deep in mind. And too, the nudge from vibration is always soft and not uncomfortable.

    I didn´t know that it was possible. It would be mean that people wake up more soft and better and, most important, more relaxing. Do you know if it on all smartwatches?

    About stress tips, I like to be in nature, the strong and good wind let is only be better. It is somehow refreshing!

    1. Hi Johann, there are so many smartwatches on the market now but if you do a little research on the internet you should be able to find something quite easily.

  9. Hi Ihliksir,

    Thanks so much for the valuable information on how to deal with stress. as you said, stress is something normal that we all do experience from time to time. However, if care is not taken and we don’t control it. It can lead to something else.

    The idea of not using an alarm during sleep sound very good. It is very annoying especially when you’re asleep and when you’re into deep sleep and have to wake up by force by an alarm. That even forces your heart to beat in an abnormal way, which I think is very bad. It can even have some negative impact on the heart.

    However, I never thought of using  fitness tracker/smart watch . I think its a very good option than using an alarm, especially looking at the way it works.

    Another thing you mentioned that reminds me of my experience some years ago is commuting to work. It can really be very stressful, looking at all the human traffic you’ll have to pass through in addition to all the noisiness from vehicles and the pollution. Sometimes even before you get to the work place, you’re already tired because of those stressful situations.

    Having your own car would have been the best option, but if you don’t then there is NOTHING you can do about it. You would have to face it. 

    But I never knew coffee can also trigger some stress in the brain. Thanks a lot for the education. I will now learn to skip the coffee, since I often take it in the morning before work.

    Your article was very helpful readying. Thanks for sharing.

    Stephen.

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