The Science of Stress
In this our first blog of 2018, before turning to more corporate matters, we thought we’d take an informal look at a subject we’re all quite interested in… Stress.
Research, which is not necessarily new news, suggests that some of us are more susceptible to stress than others. Who knows? But it seems sensible to do everything we can to control work-related stress, which it is said can deliver benefits far beyond mental wellbeing.
According to empirical research over half of a work force has felt unwell due to a poor work-life balance. In addition to physical sickness, work stress keeps over 50% of employees awake at night. Stress can manifest itself in many ways, and these may not be immediately apparent in yourself or your employees. Symptoms include problems sleeping, excessive tiredness, feeling sad, irritable and tearful, feeling the need to drink alcohol and losing one’s temper.
So, how is it suggested that we keep stress levels at bay, particularly in the work environment? Some coping mechanisms can be more detrimental than others – smoking, drinking and overeating can worsen not lessen the problem. The Health and Safety Executive has identified six key factors in work-related stress, including the demands of your job, the control you have over your work, the support you receive from managers and colleagues and management of organisational change.
Here are five steps which research suggests can assist in reducing stress:
- Inhale and exhale – Not just breathing! Take several deep breaths – this will calm your mind and give you some perspective on your situation. Become a calm observer of your own thoughts and emotions.
- Take a Break – Have a proper lunch break, it’s recommended at least 30 minutes away from your desk, so you can switch off from work. Also find a way to improve sleep; this can include meditative practices, deep breathing, exercising early in the day and getting seven or eight hours of sleep whenever possible.
- Say something – that is, talk through your problems with colleagues, friends and family. Having a support network is vital to managing stress.
- Exercise! – Being active enables you to let off steam and clear your head. Physical activity causes chemical changes in the brain, which can positively affect mood. Vigorous exercise helps to bring down adrenaline levels, while gentler exertion is good for lowering cortisol which causes chemical changes in the brain which creates positivity and mood elevators.
- Eat and drink smart – A well-fed body is a resilient body — far better equipped to handle stress. Eating nourishing foods and avoiding damaging habits like smoking and drinking excessive alcohol will boost your energy and keep your gut healthy.
All of these things may appear to be a manifestation of the phrase….. “specialist subject the blindingly obvious”, but it’s clear from all manner of research that generally we all actually pay little more than “lip service” to the issue of stress, often until it is too late. At least some awareness of the issue must be helpful.
2 January 2018