Work stress. Just those two words make my shoulders tense up, my jaw clench, and gives me knots in my stomach. Stress sucks no matter how you put a positive spin on it, but work stress is even worse. For most people, work consumes their average day and we engage most of our energy during the time that we spend at work. Some days can be unpredictable, political, negative, and just down right confrontational. Let’s face it, some days, the shit hits the proverbial fan and our stress levels can rocket to new heights. Maybe your immediate reaction is to shut down, put your head down, and push through whatever you have to do until you can punch that time clock and hit the road. Maybe you stand tall, puff up your peacock chest, and verbally “fight” your way through it. Maybe- just maybe- you begin to turn on the Niagara Falls water works and you run for the nearest bathroom, or the hills, depending on how fast you can escape. I totally get it and I know how challenging it can be. Here’s the truth bomb— When you REACT, you fail to RESPOND and when you fail to respond, you pull away from your rational mind and you begin to detach from your core needs. When you detach from your core needs, you begin to become unbalanced mentally, emotionally, and physically. Mood swings, chronic negativity, irrational thinking, physical ailments, a lack of purpose, decreased self-esteem and self-worth- all of these are effects from detaching from your core needs. Yikes! So, what do you do? What are some healthy tips that can help you stay connected to yourself, help you to respond rather than react, keep your stress at bay, and decrease the chances that you may tell your boss exactly what is on your mind?
Protecting yourself from stress is your first line of defense. If you fail to prepare, you fail to manage stress. It’s like running a marathon— if you don’t train before the big event and you enter the marathon unprepared, most likely you will fall short at finishing the race or pass out on the side of the road. Either way, you failed to prepare for ultimate success. So what solid prep work can you do?
- Have a “ritual” or routine to create peace before going into work or getting started for the day. By picking and choosing the things that bring you peace and refocus your mind on creating positivity and balance, you are more likely to transfer those actions into stressful work days or situations. Here is the truth bomb: Your immediate morning focus and actions will determine your entire day. If you focus on negativity, chaos, or stress, your mind is now primed to continue that throughout the day. Choose uplifting, relaxing, and positive activities rather than Facebook, the news, or a rushed schedule.
- Make sure that you are living by your core values, that list of things that are non-negotiable and that you pride yourself on. For me, a few of my core values are living with passion, opening my heart to help others, and striving to improve myself and my world. When I fall out of my core values, I feel depleted and stressed and emotionally unbalanced.
- Set your boundaries and be vigilant about what is acceptable or unacceptable to allow into your world. Here is another truth bomb: Allowing people to take advantage of you and pull you away from your core values sucks and it sucks your energy dry. Honor yourself and your needs and watch your stressful situations begin to dwindle.
- Have a list of positive mantras to silently (or aloud) say to yourself when the heat rises. These positive mantras can shift your mindset instantly, bring more focus and clarity, and silence that little inner voice that speaks from emotion rather than rational thinking. For example, “I am calm and relaxed and make wise decisions” and “I am in control of my emotions.”
- Have a trigger word to stop your runaway thoughts and recenter your focus. Setting up a specific trigger word stops your monkey mind in it’s tracks and cues you to change your focus. It’s like the Pavlov’s dog scenario— say the word and refocus. My personal word is “Stop.” Incredibly simple and incredibly effective!
Ok, so, what happens when you get caught in the chaos and you are about to lose your marbles? Remember, mindfulness is key here and you have to be aware of the situation at hand. Tune into your environment and take notice to what is going on around you. Living in the here and now will help you pick up on the work stress that you may easily get involved in, making you more successful to resolve it.
- Recite your trigger word. And say it with passion!
- Take a deep belly breath and bring your focus to the present and to your immediate environment, rather than letting your inner voice and your emotions get caught up in situation. When you become an observer of the situation and life around you at that point in time, you regain focus and clarity and balance out your emotions.
- Step away from the situation and refocus your thoughts by first getting super mindful and focusing on the present moment. Sit and look around the room and focus on the details of your environment. This is so important! When your mind is in the present, it is unable to run amok in your emotions. The little monkey in your monkey mind is more likely to sit back and eat a banana.
- Accept the situation as it is to see what you need at that exact moment in time. Maybe you need to relax your muscles, stretch your body, take a walk outside for a breath of fresh air, or journal your thoughts. Whatever it is, take that time to decompress and move from frazzled to free.
- Touch is incredibly healing and giving yourself a self massage can be exactly what you need to calm yourself down. I use this one often and for me, touch is one of the healing techniques that quiets my mind and releases my emotions, sometime to tears! I self-massage my arm or my neck or my hands.
- Pressure points can take your tension away in an instant. When under stress, two of the most common places of first attack are the upper back/shoulders/neck area and around the head (around the eyes, temples, or tension headaches). I have two favorites. One of them is to place both hands cupped up and over my upper traps (on the right and left side of my neck). When there, I lightly squeeze and place pressure on the muscles that are tensing up, holding it for as long as needed until I begin to relax. The other pressure point that brings me massive relief is to sit with my elbows supported on a table, place both of my pointer fingers in the notches between my eyes and my nose—allowing pressure to come as I relax my head onto my fingers. Again, holding it for as long as needed until tension releases. This one is great for eye strain too.
“When your mind is in the present, it is unable to run amok in your emotions. The little monkey in your monkey mind is more likely to sit back and eat a banana.”
~Tansy N. Rodgers
Take action now! Prepare yourself to bring you success. What kind of ritual or routine can you set up to create a peaceful morning? What do you currently do that may be priming you for elevated stress throughout the day? Find what works for you. It does not have to be complicated or excessive. Less is more! Write down these tactics above and begin to practice them in any given situation. Get used to how they feel and what they look like so, when you really need them, they will flow and feel natural.
Go to the comment section. Make a comment and let me know what you have struggled with, what you have tried, and what your action plan is. The best discussions start between like-minded friends! Share this with your friends and get more people in on the action.
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