This is a guest blog post by Lucy Rose.
In recent years it has been said that stress is the new smoking, with the impact of chronic stress leading to serious health consequences like increased risk for cardiovascular disease and amplifying the adverse effects of existing medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. While certain types of stress are unavoidable, and can even be beneficial in small amounts, chronic stress is unarguably negative and is often the result of a hectic work schedule and poor work-life balance. Chronic workplace stress persists over an extended period of time as a result of job-related worries, and its’ negative impact on our health can not be overstated. The good news is that adopting some simple techniques and creating healthy stress management habits can have a tremendous impact on reducing or eliminating chronic workplace stress.
How Stress Affects Your Physiology: The Fight Or Flight Response.
Stress is the body’s natural, inborn reaction to an internal or external trigger. Early humans relied on the body’s stress response, often called the “fight or flight” response, to ensure survival in a world filled with defined risks, like hunting among deadly predators for food. As we evolved into modern humans, we replaced those primitive dangers with more abstract fears: instead of worrying about predators, we worry about job security and financial woes. The problem, though, is that even though the triggers of stress have evolved, our physiological response to stresshas remained the same. Concerns and fears about getting fired or missing a promotion release the same chemicals into your bloodstream as being stalked by a hungry lion on the plains of Africa.
When stress is triggered, your brain recognises the trigger and jumps immediately into “fight or flight” mode, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, increasing your heart rate, and raising blood pressure. And while this acute response to stress is a good thing, preparing the body to react to a potential danger or threat, workplace stress that persists over time as chronic stress is dangerous and damaging to the body. Even without preexisting medical conditions, the impact of constantly elevated hormones like adrenaline on the cardiovascular system is extremely negative and is a likely contributor to the risk of adverse cardiovascular events like hypertension and heart attacks.
Set Yourself Up For Success By Planning Ahead.
High pressure working environments, constant work related travel, and poor eating habits as a result of busy schedules all contribute to the burden of workplace stress. To reduce pressure and stress levels, consider meal prepping on the weekends to set yourself up with healthy lunch for the work week. If you travel often for work, create go-to packing lists or adopt a capsule wardrobe to reduce frantic, last minute packing. Even when not traveling, use the weekend to plan your work outfits for the upcoming week, and make sure your clothes and shoes are clean and ready for wear ahead of time.
Manage Workplace Stress Without Sacrificing Professional Goals: The Power Of The To-Do List.
It is important to develop habits to help manage workplace stress so that we can alleviate acute stress before it becomes chronic and unmanageable. One simple way to manage a hectic schedule and clear the clutter from your brain is to keep simple to-do lists.When the brain is trying to remember a million things at once, clutter begins to pile up (just like unwashed laundry or dishes in the kitchen sink), and this brain clutter makes us feel too busy, stretched too thin, and are inadequate or incapable of tackling daily work responsibilities. To alleviate that “too busy” feeling, carry a small journal or notepad with you and jot down tasks as they arise throughout the day. Take this habit to the next level by setting aside 15 minutes every evening to review your list, and migrate any unfinished tasks to the next day’s list.
Not a big fan of carrying around extra paper and pens? You can still integrate this habit by using your smartphone. There are countless productivity apps available to download on your phone. Find a simple one that works for you, and that you find pleasing to use. If you enjoy using the app, and it is simple to learn and integrate into your daily routine, you are much more likely to use it every day and create a habit of making your to-do lists.
Still Struggling? Consider A Coach.
If you are still struggling to manage your brain clutter with lists and apps, you may consider reaching out to a life coach or mentor. Some of us simply need an external push in the right direction, and a life coach will hold you responsible for implementing positive stress management habits. The benefit of creating these positive habits far outweighs the cost associated with hiring a third party coach to get you across the finish line.
Simply put, workplace stress is one of the greatest health risks for working professionals in 2019. When acute stress becomes a chronic condition, the potential for harm is amplified and the outcome of chronic unmanaged workplace stress is decidedly dangerous. Commit to keeping your brain clutter free by using a to-do list, either on paper or in an app, and reap the rewards of creating a stress busting healthy habit.
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