Excessive stress reduces how well we function on a day-to-day basis. In the modern world, many of us are faced with a stressful routine: long work hours, traffic congestion, family responsibilities and so on. This may lead to poor overall health, bad sleeping patterns, and health conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Yet, many South Africans resort to unhealthy behaviours to cope with stress such as skipping meals, overeating, avoiding exercise, smoking or drinking excessively, and having persistent negative thoughts. While we cannot always escape stress, we can learn to manage it effectively to protect our health.
We want you to break the habit of letting too much stress weigh you down and try our 7 easy tips for relieving work stress, after all it is where you spend 8 hours or more a day.
Manage time smartly: Slow down and prioritise the things you need to do – one of those priorities being you, and your downtime. Find easier ways of doing things and purposely reduce unnecessary pressures in your daily routine. Prepare meals in advance for the next day or next few days to open up some down-time at home. At the same time, you can use leftovers to pack a healthy lunch box for work to keep you going throughout the day.
Keep a diary: Get organised by writing down ‘To-Do’ lists so that you can manage time well and plan your day, to overcome that overwhelming feeling of life getting too chaotic. Schedule time for positive activities like staying active in and out of the workplace, make time to see a friend or read a book. If a task can wait for tomorrow, then let it wait – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Breathe deeply: Breathing is a powerful tool to help you ease stress and feel less anxiety. Try this simple and effective breathing exercise which can be done anywhere: take a deep breathe in through your nose, hold it there for a few seconds, let go of all the tension as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat this action a few times. You can also use a stress ball to squeeze really hard while practicing the breathing exercises.
Talk to someone: Share concerns that are not too personal with colleagues and consult a professional for emotional difficulties. Talk to management at your work who can easily offer support if they are aware of how you feel. Employers are required by law to look after the wellbeing of their workforce. Sharing the problem with others opens you up to numerous solutions. If you are truly exhausted and stressed, take a few leave days to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Think positively: Remind yourself that being stressed and caught up in negative thoughts won’t help your situation. Take a moment to step back and think about what you can do to improve the situation and lower your stress. Challenge your negative thoughts by make a conscious decision to look on the bright side and acknowledge your past achievements.
Keep moving by being active at work: Find ways to get more movement into your day. Try taking the stairs instead of the lift, cycle to work, walk to a colleagues desk instead of calling them, or take a 10-minute walk during your lunch break to get stretch your legs, get some fresh air and sunlight on your skin. Finding ways to get active at work is an easy way to release some tension and refresh your mind.
Think nutrition, mind and body: Avoid turning to unhealthy eating habits, drinking too much alcohol or smoking to relieve your stress. Instead, fuel your body with what it needs to stay strong and carry you through the rough patches. Pack in healthy snacks like unsalted nuts, carrot sticks, hummus, unsalted popcorn and fresh fruit. Click here for some deliciously healthy lunch ideas.
Incorporating all of these tips into your new time management and lifestyle strategy will help you to protect your heart health and so much more. The key is to find balance as well as healthy ways to relieve stress. Being an example to others can also prevent them from turning to harmful ways of managing stress, which can potentially harm their hearts and mental health too.
The next step
If your mental state does not improve and you start becoming anxious more often than before, please seek professional help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, GP, or qualified counsellor.
Alternatively, contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)
Mental health line: 011 234 4837
For counselling queries e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
24hr Helpline 0800 12 13 14