Place two fingers on the inside edge of your wrist. That slight throbbing you feel is your pulse. Having a pulse means you’re alive. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that living comes with some level of stress. UC Berkeley stress researcher Daniella Kaufer says, "We're learning that moderate amounts of stress have powerful benefits. Our research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory."
It’s when stress becomes chronic and escalates into anxiety that it’s damaging effects become widespread. Many people see workplace anxiety as the norm—that’s just the way it is, they insist. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, if workplace stress/anxiety becomes persistent, irrational, and overwhelming, it will impair your ability to do your job - in a major way. If you feel preoccupied, scared or panicky, it will be impossible to be on your A-game.
While we’d all vote to banish stress from our day-a-day lives, we need to forego that glorious thought and instead focus on identifying and managing our work-related stress. The simple, liberating truth is that we can take charge of improving our stress levels. The first place to look is at how thoughts, behaviors, and habits may be contributing to your job stress. Does your “mental monolog” chant a continuous chorus of self-doubt? Do you hesitate to ask necessary questions? Do you struggle with procrastination?
Take responsibility for the stressors that you can control and be diligent about striving for improvement. Every stress-producing situation that you can reduce or eliminate will allow more energy for dealing with the stressors that are outside of your control. For those situations, focus on relieving the fight-or-flight response that sends our bodies into danger mode, and urges us toward unhealthy coping mechanisms like:
- Use of pills or drugs to relax
- Drinking too much
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Bingeing on junk or comfort food
- Sleeping too much
Instead make a conscious effort to choose healthier forms of coping such as:
- Going for a walk
- Spending time in nature
- Calling a good friend
- Working out
- Writing in a journal
- Playing with a pet
- Listening to music
Work-related stress doesn’t have to permeate your life. Before it’s negative effects impact your health and cause chronic health conditions to develop, seek treatment. Don’t cripple your career with untreated anxiety.
Next week, in part 2, we’ll offer 5 strategies for minimizing stress.
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