COVID stress in the workplace is a huge concern for employees. The CDC states stress can lead to burnout (1) and an employee turnover is very expensive. But stress no more as we’ve got you covered with five quick & proven techniques to combat that stress!
What’s the big deal about being stressed out anyways? First, it is a huge detriment to our health. Many chronic diseases in the United States are all stress related and can be prevented. Chronic stress negatively affects almost every system in our body (2). Stress also messes with our ability to pay attention and show up as our best selves. Employees suffering from high stress levels have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absentee levels than those not operating under excessive pressure, according to research from professional services firm Towers Watson (3). Simply put: under-managed stress in the workplace is a huge liability for the workplace.
The next time you feel stressed take one minute to scan your body to begin to cultivate this awareness.
Start to pay attention to your personal signs of stress. Without awareness of our stress triggers we cannot do anything about it. What gets your blood boiling, your head pounding or causes you shortness of breath? These are your personal stress triggers. Now notice how your body responds. Is it with a clenched jaw, tense shoulders or uneasy stomach? This awareness of how you respond to stress and where your body holds it is the first step to managing your stress.
Take a minute each time you feel stressed to move the stress out of your body.
Once you identify where the stress is being held take a moment to move the stress out. A one minute stress buster break will help you to release the stress and regain focus.
For instance, if you identified stress being held in your shoulders try this: inhale and roll your shoulders up to your ears and exhale and roll your shoulders down your back. Repeat 3 to 10 times. Feels great, doesn’t it?
Not only are you actively doing something to move the stress out, you are also increasing your concentration. Peter Strick, PhD and brain researcher, has documented that the same pathway in the brain for learning and concentration is also the same pathway for movement (4).
Set a timer every 30 minutes to take a one minute deep breathing break and notice how much more productive you are.
This tip is all about how we take a breath. Notice when you are anxious your breath is shallow and fast. This rapid breathing is simply exaggerating your anxiousness and stress.
Instead, to calm the body down and reduce stress take a deep belly breath (inhale through the nose, fill up your lungs from bottom to top and expand the belly out, now take a slow deep exhale breath out with pursed lips as the belly deflates).
This deep breath and slow exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the relaxation response in the body. The Mayo Clinic states that breath work can help to increase alertness, release stress and shift and release negative energy. (5).
Practice mindfulness 5 minutes a day with a mindful timeout by simply observing yourself and your surroundings and experience the benefits.
Do you ever find yourself mindlessly typing, forgetting to send attachments or find your mind constantly wandering off? Of course you do! We all battle with this. A mindful break provides us with practice to combat this stressful and time-wasting behavior.
Here’s how to do it. Take a 5 minute break and head outside or to a quiet place in your office/home. Sit and begin to engage your senses to notice everything around you. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see? What thoughts come into your mind? Acknowledge those thoughts and then let them float away like clouds on a clear blue sky.
This practice of mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment, will increase focus, happiness and present moment awareness. When our mind wanders we make errors. Mindfulness tames our wandering mind and increases productivity while decreasing stress.
Connection with others increases compassion and decreases stress.
COVID has left many of us feeling disconnected. Dignity Health (6) reports that when we feel connected to another person, our bodies respond in a way that makes us feel calmer. Showing kindness also reduces our response to stressful circumstances more effectively. Have fun and manage stress by virtually meeting up with friends at your lunch hour or going for a social distance walk outside with a neighbor or family member for a work break.
While stress can be a detriment to our health, the good news is that we hold all the tools to bring down our response to stress right now. So, take a deep breath, or a few, and then return to the task at hand with more clarity and focus. Your calmer state of being will thank you!
Ms. Shawn Bradford, founder of Breathe and Work, PLLC, is an expert on stress management. She lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona and offers stress management training online to businesses interested in investing in their employees wellness. Contact Shawn here.
Employees: How to Cope with Job Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic | CDC
Life Event, Stress and Illness (nih.gov)
Workplace Stress Leads to Less Productive Employees
Decrease Stress by Using your Breathe
How Human Connection can Decrease Stress