It’s estimated that up to 14 million U.K. men and women suffer from stress (it’s the number one reason for absenteeism at work) and in the US, this figure is nearly 50 million. A recent survey suggested that nearly 90% of all visits to GP’s surgeries in the U.K. were stress-related.
According to the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work-related stress is defined as “a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands place on them at work”.
The industries that reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the last three years were health, social work, education and public administration.
If you’re unlucky enough to suffer from stress you’ve probably already found your own way to cope with it. If you haven’t, here are three top tips to try when you feel the stress levels rising at work:
1. Breathe through your nose
When the pressure is on and you feel like you’re going into meltdown, a really good technique is to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. It’s harder to get agitated when you breathe through your nose. It’s more effective than breathing through your mouth.
Your brain sets the breathing rate according to carbon dioxide levels rather than oxygen levels. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes.
Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing empties too much carbon dioxide out of the blood and upsets the body’s balance of gases.
Shallow over-breathing – or hyperventilation – can prolong feelings of anxiety by exacerbating physical symptoms of stress
2. Go for a brisk walk
When we get stressed, hormones are secreted into the blood stream. If these hormones are not used up they can lead to feelings of irritability, increased vigilance and can eventually lead to a number of stress related illnesses.
So if you get stressed, it might be totally convenient but unless you’ve got a scalpel in your hand and you’re about to make an incision into someone’s body, you could leave your place of work for 10 minutes and go for a brisk walk in the fresh air.
The act of walking briskly can help you to use some of the stress hormones that can accumulate in the body in response to stress.
If you can’t get outside, how about running up the stairs to raise your heart rate? Just don’t forget to go back
3. Change scenery
If you simply can’t get outside and there are no stairs to pound up, just changing your scenery for a few minutes lowers your stress levels.
Sometimes we find, particularly if we’re stuck behind our desks and the stress is building up it’s tempting to try to stay put and ‘fix’ whatever is causing the stress.
However, often your stress causes you to be more emotional than usual and therefore you’re in danger of adding more fuel on your stress fire by staying put and carrying on.
Therefore, get up, go to another part of the building/office, stretch your legs and change your focus. If you can combine this with breathing deeply through your nose, this will lower your stress levels.
So how do you manage your stress at work? If you’re looking for some inspiration for a change of scenery, check out this quick 30 second video – a natural stress reliever (pop your headphones on and listen to the birds)….Click here