The world is currently dealing with a lot: all around the globe we are fighting an invisible enemy. Unemployment rates are soaring. And slowly, but steadily we are seeing the effects that prolonged social distancing has on our mental health.
And although work always has a tendency to be stressful due to the competitive job market that encourages employees to continuously work harder and longer, we are now facing another potential stressor: our level (or lack) of self-discipline while working from home.
All of this greatly affects how we make decisions and perform tasks. Both in and out of the â€œofficeâ€.
To help you triumph and not choke under the stress of performing, I would like to share a couple of ways to solve the issue of stress management. But before I do so, it is important to establish what stress exactly is and what its causes are. After all, not all stress is the same and a healthy dose can in many cases actually push you to peak performance.
What is stress?
The word â€œstressâ€ has obtained a negative connotation over the past decades, but as it turns out stress is not inherently bad. In fact, it serves as your body's natural defense against predators and danger and is essential for survival as it prepares your system to either evade or confront an approaching threat. This survival mechanism is commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight response and allows you to react quickly to life-threatening situations.
So what exactly causes stress?
Stress comes forth from an inability to cope with specific demands and events. These demands are often work related, but they can also come from relationships, financial problems, global issues, and even mere uncertainty.
Traditionally the stress response system consists of two arms the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Both arms are influenced by the amygdala and the hypothalamus.
Why is it important to know how to manage stress?
Study after study has shown that prolonged stress has significant adverse effects on our health, both causing and worsening many illnesses and psychiatric disorders. But, as mentioned earlier, stress is not inherently bad and in many cases it can even serve as a much-needed motivator. As a matter of fact, a healthy amount of manageable stress improves your brain functioning and leaves you better prepared for future stressful situations.
The problems, however, begin when stress becomes a chronic condition. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
- When the body becomes triggered too easily
- When there are too many stressors at one time
- When someone is unable to manage stressful situations and reactions in a timely or adequate manner
Your body does not distinguish between different types of dangers. And anything that is perceived as a threat to your well-being, be it a roaring lion or an important work deadline, can trigger the fight-or-flight mechanism. This overreaction to not life-threatening stressors, in turn leads to chronic stress.
Knowing how to manage stress in your daily work is therefore important as it helps you to override your body's overprotective streak and end this hijacking of your brain.
How do you manage stress in your daily work?
Constant performance pressure, conflicting demands, and tight deadlines.
Work-related stress tends to be ceaseless, which means that battling it is not an easy feat. But, as avoiding this type of stress is next to impossible, learning how to manage stress in your daily work will have tremendously healing effects on your mind, body, and soul.
Below I share some of my favourite stress management techniques to help you strengthen your internal locus of control and keep work stress at bay.
Sound therapy affects us on a profound physical, mental and spiritual level. And science is slowly but steadily beginning to piece together how.
- Deep relaxation
Through altering your brainwaves, sound therapy can induce the brain's relaxation response by activating a part of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This physiological reaction is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, which is driven by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
- Melatonin release
A good night's sleep is important during stressful times as it enables you to tackle the day's challenges. When you are well-rested, you are also more patient and less easily agitated. Unfortunately, a high-stress job often keeps us up at night as we lay awake worrying about approaching deadlines and everything that still needs to be done to meet them.
This is why an increase in melatonin can be very beneficial. Melatonin, also called the sleep hormone is produced by the pineal gland and helps regulate your circadian rhythms and cycles of sleeping and waking. And while the hormone itself will not knock you out, high levels of it help you fall asleep as it lets your body know that it is night-time.
- Mindfulness & meditation
While the words â€œmindfulnessâ€ and â€œmeditationâ€ are frequently used interchangeably, they are not one and the same. However, there definitely is a lot of overlap and both practices offer similar advantages.
- Amygdala-shrinking capacities
Mindfulness and meditation covary with a smaller amygdala, the so-called fear center of your brain. Both practices also weaken the connection between the amygdala and the rest of your brain, which in turn minimizes the amygdala hijack, reduces stress reactivity, and improves stress resistance.
- Being present and aware
Willfully and purposefully regulating your attention allows you to elicit the relaxation response. And when mindfulness is practiced systematically, you learn to intentionally suppress automatic thoughts by actively keeping the mind in the present. This alone can be enough to reduce psychological and physiological stress.
Other stress-relieving methods and habits to manage stress in your daily work life
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation
- Practice yoga
- Go for a walk and soak in nature's beauty
- Get creative and make some artwork
- Eat a balanced diet
article by Eline Stone
Listen to Sonic Yogi sound therapy here, or on your favorite streaming service.