For millions of women in the workplace, stress is a major inhibitor. It prevents them from being productive, creative, and (ultimately) successful. But there are also plenty of ways to tackle stress without turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
The Problem With Stress
Stress can be a good thing. A little bit of stress can help you focus on the task at hand, push to meet a deadline, or embrace a challenging responsibility that requires additional energy and discipline. But too much stress can quickly become problematic.
Work-related stress is linked to a number of physical health issues, including an increased risk of diabetes, immune deficiency disorders, chronic back and joint pain, gastrointestinal disorders, and even musculoskeletal disorders.
“Workplace stress also has adverse effects on workers’ mental health, with an increased risk of anxiety, burnout, depression, and substance use disorders,” Corporate Wellness Magazine mentions. “Workers who are stressed at work are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor dietary patterns.”
To put it bluntly, stress is the silent killer of productivity. It can also kill employee morale and lead to high turnover. And do you want to know something interesting? The number of women who experience work-related stress is 50 percent higher than for men.
There are a number of theories as to why work-related stress is so much more prevalent among women than men, but it likely comes down to a combination of the following factors:
- Increased pressure to handle the bulk of parenting/home life duties
- Lower average pay than male counterparts (working just as hard for less money)
- Greater risk of being laid off in a corporate downsizing situation
- Expectations to always be “on”
At the end of the day, high levels of work-related stress often lead women to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Learning how to deal with stress appropriately can potentially mitigate negative side effects and restore optimum balance and productivity.
Healthy Ways to De-Stress at Work
You can’t afford to wait until the evenings or weekends to de-stress. To stay productive and continue winning on the job, you must find ways to de-stress at work. Here are several options.
Exercise at lunchtime. As we all know, daily physical exercise is a must for staying healthy and fit. But it also has a positive impact on emotional well-being. By exercising in the middle of the day – ideally on your lunch break – you can reduce tension and release a flood of stress-zapping endorphins and chemicals into your bloodstream. By tackling exercise in the middle of the day, you also free up more of your evenings after work to do things you enjoy (like spending time with family and friends).
Vagus nerve stimulation. The human body has a process known as neuromodulation. This is where the parasympathetic nervous system jumps into action after a stressful event to slow down your heart rate and breathing. And the vagus nerve, which happens to be one of the largest nerves in the human body, plays a key role. This built-in “chill out” machine is designed to reduce stress, calm nerves, and signal a release of serotonin and acetylcholine in the brain. It can be jump-started through a process known as vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS. Simply pop in a pair of Xen headphones while working at your desk and feel a sense of calm rush over you.
Hot tea. Next time you reach for a coffee or soda when stressed, ask yourself if that’s what your body really needs. Instead, consider opting for a hot tea that’s specifically designed to soothe stress and anxiety. Good options include chamomile tea, green tea, passionflower tea, lemon balm tea, and rose tea.
Breathing exercises. As you become stressed, your body tenses up, breathing increases, and your heart rate becomes more rapid. By slowing down your breathing, you can soothe your body and reduce tension. Here are some good exercises to try.
Adding it All Up
While stress is almost always caused by external pressures and circumstances (which may not be controllable), there are plenty of strategic ways to deal with how your body responds in these moments. By developing safe and healthy coping mechanisms that can be used at work, you can limit the negative consequences of stress and boost productivity levels across the board.