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5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reduce

Stress at Work
Is stress as much a permanent fixture at your job as the office coffee machine? If
so, youve got plenty of company. According to the American Psychological
Association, workplace stress costs American companies an estimated $300 billion
annually.
Theres been workplace stress as long as there have been workplaces, but if you
think youre more stressed now, youre probably right. Ability to do their job well
and therefore keep their job is a major stress for most employees, especially in a
fluctuating economy, says Heidi Golledge, co-founder of CareerBliss.
But this doesnt mean youre relegated to spending 40 hours (or more!) each week
as a bundle of nerves. Social scientists who study how, when and why
our jobs stress us out have
Sit up straight. Your mother probably told you to sit up straight, but she probably
didnt know good posture can affect how well you do on the job. Your posture
influences psychology and that influences behavior, says Andy Yap, a post
doctoral associate and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yap
conducted experiments and found that when we sit in tight, contracted positions
like squeezed into a too-small seat or hunched over our phone we feel more
stressed and less powerful. Power buffers you from stress, he says.
If your desk or workstation is cramped, see if you can move things around to give
yourself a little more physical (and mental) breathing room. If thats not an option,
periodically strike power poses, where you take up more space and stretch out a
bit.
Get organized. Researchers at UCLA found that just looking at clutter can spur the
bodys production of stress hormones, so working in a messy office or cubicle can
make you stressed even if the work itself isnt high-stress. Its OK to start small.
We know from research that little acts of neatness cascade into larger acts of
organization, UC Berkeley sociologist Christine Carter tells CNN. Tackle that pile
of papers you never get around to filing, or the overflowing inbox.
In general, clutter is simply a delayed decision, says Scott Roewer, who owns
organizing company Solutions by Scott & Company. Start by simplifying the

decision process by using these three categories: reference, action, and recycle, he
advises, then subdivide from there. If you have 10 to 15 pieces of paper on your
desk in an action pile, it may work for you, but as the number of action items
grows, your system will become less productive. If you group your papers by the
type of action, youll be able to act on them more efficiently, he says. Your tasks
can be things like call back, file and send out.

Abandon unrealistic goals. Ambition is good, but sometimes we can fall into the
trap of setting goals for ourselves that are too high, which just discourages us when
we fail to reach them. Peter Creed, a psychology professor at Griffith University
in Australia, studied nearly 200 college students and noted how they reacted when
faced with an unachievable goal. When contemplating unachievable goals, those
with a higher capacity to adjust their goals report less distress, more career
planning, and more exploration. Like many other things in life, being able to be
flexible is key.
Aim high, but with the understanding that you can go back and change those
goals. Taking pride in everything you do, no matter how big or how small, is key
to confidence and success, Golledge says.
Try to avoid interruptions. Yes, it can be easier said than done when your phone
is ringing and your voicemail light is already flashing, your email inbox is filling
up and a co-worker sticks their head in to ask a question. But researchers in
Germany found that addressing interruptions rather than staying focused less to
stress. Workflow interruptions had detrimental effects on satisfaction with ones
own performance, the forgetting of intentions, and irritation, they wrote.
When the inevitable does happen, dont let it derail you, Roewer says. If you find
yourself interrupted in the middle of a task, write a quick reminder to yourself
about what and where you left off, he suggests. By using this method, youll have
a reminder of where to begin when you return, and wont lose time trying to retrace
your steps.
Embrace your stress. Yep, it sounds crazy. But researchers at Yale
University discovered that experiment subjects who were presented with the idea
that stress can be beneficial reported improved psychological symptoms and better
work performance compared to other subjects who were taught that stress is
debilitating. It didnt take much to change peoples attitudes, either; subjects
watched less than 10 minutes of video about stress, and that was enough to change

their outlook about stress. Having a positive outlook on stress makes people more
likely to rise to whatever challenge theyre facing when stressful situations occur.

12 Ways To Eliminate
Stress At Work
The average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate. Modern workers are
interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. And four out of 10 people
working at large companies are experiencing a major corporate restructuring, and therefore facing
uncertainly about their futures. This may be why more than 40% of adults say they lie awake at
night plagued by the stressful events of the day.

People are asking me for answers, says Sharon


Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of
just released Success Under Stress. Everyone feels
overwhelmed and overly busy.
Is there a way to maintain steady focus throughout the
day? Is it possible to do everything that needs to get
done and still have energy left over after work? How do
you keep cool under so many demands? Informed by
10 years of Harvard research and field-tested by more
than 6,000 clients and trainees, Melnick offers the
following strategies to take your work stress down a
peg, before it takes over your life.
Act Rather Than React
We experience stress when we feel that situations are
out of our control, says Melnick. It activates the stress
hormone and, if chronic, wears down confidence,
concentration and well-being. She advises that you
identify the aspects of the situation you can control
and aspects you cant. Typically, youre in control of

your actions and responses, but not in control of macro


forces or someone elses tone, for example. Be
impeccable for your 50%, she advises. And try to let
go of the rest.
Take A Deep Breath
If youre feeling overwhelmed or are coming out of a
tense meeting and need to clear your head, a few
minutes of deep breathing will restore balance, says
Melnick. Simply inhale for five seconds, hold and
exhale in equal counts through the nose. Its like
getting the calm and focus of a 90-minute yoga class in
three minutes or less at your desk, she says.
Eliminate Interruptions
Most of us are bombarded during the day, says
Melnick. Emails, phone calls, pop ins, instant
messages and sudden, urgent deadlines conspire to
make todays workers more distracted than ever. While
you may not have control over the interrupters, you
can control your response. Melnick advises responding
in one of three ways: Accept the interruption, cut it off,
or diagnosis its importance and make a plan. Many
interruptions are recurring and can be anticipated.
You want to have preset criteria for which response
you want to make, she says. You can also train those
around you by answering email during certain
windows, setting up office hours to talk in person or
closing the door when you need to focus.
Schedule Your Day For Energy And Focus
Most of us go through the day using a push, push,
push approach, thinking if we work the full eight to 10
hours, well get more done. Instead, productivity goes
down, stress levels go up and you have very little
energy left over for your family, Melnick says. She
advises scheduling breaks throughout the day to walk,
stretch at your desk or do a breathing exercise. Tony

Schwartz of the Energy Project has shown that if we


have intense concentration for about 90 minutes,
followed by a brief period of recovery, we can clear the
buildup of stress and rejuvenate ourselves, she says.
Eat Right And Sleep Well
Eating badly will stress your system, says Melnick,
who advises eating a low-sugar, high-protein diet.
And when youre not sleeping well, youre not getting
the rejuvenating effects. According to the CDC, an
estimated 60 million Americans do not get sufficient
sleep, which is a critical recovery period for the body. If
racing thoughts keep you from falling asleep or you
wake up in the night and cant get back to sleep,
Melnick suggests a simple breathing trick that will
knock you out fast: Cover your right nostril and
breathe through your left for three to five minutes.

Change Your Story


Your perspective of stressful office events is typically a
subjective interpretation of the facts, often seen
through the filter of your own self-doubt, says Melnick.
However, if you can step back and take a more
objective view, youll be more effective and less likely
to take things personally. She recalls one client who
sent a request to human resources for more people on
an important project. When she was denied, she
immediately got angry and defensive, thinking they
didnt trust her to know what she needed. Yet she
never stopped to even consider there might be
budgetary issues on their end. Once she was able to
remove herself from the situation, she called the HR
director and said: Tell me where youre coming from,
Ill tell you where Im coming from and then lets see if
we can find a solution. Ultimately, it worked

Cool Down Quickly


When you feel frustrated or angry, its a heated feeling
in your body that can cause you to react, says Melnick.
Instead of immediately reactingand likely
overreactingshe suggests trying a cooling breath
technique: Breathe in through your mouth as if you are
sipping through a straw, and then breathe out
normally through your nose. Done right, youll feel a
cooling, drying sensation over the top of your tongue.
Its like hitting the pause button, giving you time to
think about your response. She says, Its so powerful
it will even calm theother person down.
Identify Self-Imposed Stress
Learn to stop self imposing stress by building your
own self-confidence rather than seeking others
approval, says Melnick. If youre too caught up in
others perceptions of you, which you cant control, you
become stressed out by the minutia or participate in
avoidance behaviors like procrastination. Ironically,
once you shift your focus from others perception of
your work to the work itself, youre more likely to
impress them.
Prioritize Your Priorities
With competing deadlines and fast-changing priorities,
its critical to define whats truly important and why.
That requires clarity, says Melnick. Its important to
understand your role in the organization, the
companys strategic priorities, and your personal goals
and strengths. Cull your to-do list by focusing on those
projects that will have the most impact and are best
aligned with your goals.
Reset The Panic Button

For those who become panic-y and short of breath


before a presentation, Melnick says you can quickly
reduce your anxiety with the right acupressure point.
Positioning your thumb on the side of your middle
finger and applying pressure instantly helps regulate
your blood pressure.
Influence Others
Even if youre responsible for your behavior and
outlook, youre still left dealing with other peoples
stressful behavior, Melnick notes. She advises
confronting a problem coworker or employee by
stating the bad behavior in a respectful tone,
describing the impact on the team and the individual,
and requesting a change. For example, constant
negativity might be addressed in this way: When you
speak in a critical tone, it makes others uncomfortable
and less likely to see you as a leader. I understand your
frustration but request that you bring concerns directly
to me, so we can talk them through. By transferring
the ownership of the problem, youre more likely to
resolve it.
Be Your Own Best Critic
Some 60,000 thoughts stream through your mind each
day, Melnick says, and internal negativity is just as
likely to stress you out as an external event. The fix?
Instead of being harsh and critical of yourself, try
pumping yourself up. Encouraging thoughts will help
motivate you to achieve and ultimately train you to
inspire others.

Coping with stress at work


Everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have
stressful elements, even if you love what you do. In the short-term, you may experience pressure to meet a

deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming
and harmful to both physical and emotional health.
Unfortunately such long-term stress is all too common. In 2012, 65 percent of Americans cited work as a top
source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association's (APA) annual Stress in America Survey.
Only 37 percent of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress.
A 2013 survey by APA's Center for Organizational Excellence also found that job-related stress is a serious issue.
More than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress and just 36 percent said
their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage that stress.
You can't always avoid the tensions that occur on the job. Yet you can take steps to manage work-related stress.

Common Sources of Work Stress


Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. Some common workplace stressors are:

Low salaries.
Excessive workloads.
Few opportunities for growth or advancement.
Work that isn't engaging or challenging.
Lack of social support.
Not having enough control over job-related decisions.
Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

Effects of Uncontrolled Stress


Unfortunately, work-related stress doesn't just disappear when you head home for the day. When stress persists,
it can take a toll on your health and well-being.
In the short term, a stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache,
sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high
blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression,
obesity and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it
in unhealthy ways such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol.

Taking Steps to Manage Stress

Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most
stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment,
including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Did you raise your
voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among
your stressors and your reactions to them.

Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best
to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an
excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also make time for hobbies and favorite activities.
Whether it's reading a novel, going to concerts or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for
the things that bring you pleasure. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress
management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating
activities, such as computer and television use, at night.

Establish boundaries. In today's digital world, it's easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day.
Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in
the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes
to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can
reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.

Take time to recharge. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to
replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires switching off from work
by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That's
why it's critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don't let your
vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling
reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you're not able to take time off, get a quick boost by
turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on non-work activities for a while.

Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness (a state
in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress.
Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking or enjoying a meal.
The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice
and you'll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.

Talk to your supervisor. Healthy employees are typically more productive, so your boss has an
incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation
with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn't to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective
plan for managing the stressors you've identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. While some parts of
the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements
might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what's expected of
you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or
meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.
Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to
manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee
assistance program (EAP), including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health
professionals, if needed. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a
psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.

Nine in 10 emergency services staff


affected by poor mental health
Grace Lewis

6 Mar 2015
Comments0 comments

Libor-fixing fines to fund new well-being programme for Blue Light personnel
Nearly 9 in 10 (87 per cent) employees and volunteers have experienced stress, low mood and
poor mental health while working for the emergency services, according to new data from mental
health charity Mind.
The online survey of over 3,500 emergency services staff also revealed that more than half (55
per cent) had experienced mental health problems at some point.

This is a sharp increase from the findings of the 2011 CIPD report, Focus on mental health in the
Workplace, which revealed that 26 per cent of respondents had experienced a mental health
problem.
Last year, mental ill-health was said to have cost the UK economy between 70m and 100m in
lost productivity and sickness absence. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has pledged an extra
120mto fund the improvement in mental health care in the NHS and help combat some of these
challenges.
Research has shown that those working in the emergency services have a greater risk of
developing poor mental health, due to the unique set of difficulties these challenging roles
present. But Minds latest study also indicated that emergency service workers find it harder than
other professions to say when theyre not at their best and are less likely to take time off sick as a
result.
Just 43 per cent of survey respondents said they had taken time off work due to poor mental
health, compared to 57 per cent among the general workforce.
As a result of the growing need for support and guidance around mental health in the profession,
Mind is launching a mental well-being programme for Blue Light personnel. Funded by 4m
worth of bank fines from the Libor-fixing scandal, the Blue Light Programme, aims to tackle the
stigma and discrimination at an organisational level as well as across the wider public.
Under the programme, managers, employees and volunteers will be offered bespoke mental
health training, and help on building the mental health resilience.
Commenting on the funding, Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: The programme well be
delivering over the next year aims to ensure that the estimated quarter of a million people working
and volunteering within police, ambulance, fire and search and rescue divisions are able to talk
openly about their mental health and access the support they need to stay well, recover and
continue doing the vital and challenging roles they do serving the community.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg welcomed the programme and said it was vital that greater
support was offered to the people who support us most.
"Emergency service workers save lives every day, helping people in trouble or in need, but we
need to support them as they deal with the incredibly stressful and sometimes harrowing
situations they face in the line of duty, he said.With initiatives like this were helping to drive a
culture change so that one day well see parity of esteem between physical and mental health,
he added.

The Best Cures for Workplace Stress

Is your perpetually frazzled state making your work life more


onerous?
Forget misfit teenagers or a rocky romantic life. The responsibilities of work are filling up the
majority of space in the stress vacuum. That's according to a 2013 Consumer Health Mindset
report by Aon Hewitt, a retirement and health solutions company. Of the 2,800 employees and
their dependents surveyed, four of the top five reasons for stress were work-related: financial
situation (46 percent), work changes (37 percent), work schedule (34 percent), work relationships
(32 percent) and influence and control over how the employee did work (32 percent).
Stress has both emotional and physical consequences, according to Bob Rosen, psychologist
and CEO and chairman of the consulting firm Healthy Companies International. "Stress is a
condition we experience when our minds and bodies respond to changing conditions," he wrote in
an email. "Too much stress creates excessive fear and anxiety, conflict and defensiveness,
feelings of overwhelm and burnout, and chronic inflammation in the body."
If you're already in a demanding job, laboring under such conditions can only make it that much
harder. Below are some issues you may face as well as steps you can take to alleviate some of
your workplace stress.
Others feel your wrath. If you're bogged down in heaps of work each day, you may show little
restraint in voicing your frustrations with colleagues. While the tongue-lashing of your boss and
colleagues may provide some momentary relief, it can create a hostile and distrustful work
environment. "This can affect relationships with co-workers in that we can snap at them more
often, be more short-tempered, relate to them in a less positive way, which can create more
stress not just for us and them, but that can permeate the workplace," says Elizabeth Scott, a
stress expert for About.com and author of "Eight Keys to Stress Management."
Cure: Blow off steam by exercising. Let your frustrations boil out during your lunch workout in
the company gym. If your workplace doesn't have a gym, walking up and down the office stairs or
around a nearby park for 15 minutes are great substitutes. "Those who exercise regularly are less
reactive to stress when they experience it," Scott says, adding that doing so unleashes an "influx
of endorphins" and makes you "more resilient to stress."
Focusing is a struggle. Between fretting about your low salary and the high demands of your
boss, your body may be overwhelmed by the emotional toll and release cortisol a hormone
unleashed as a result of stress. Scott explains that this can inhibit logical reasoning, reaction time
and other areas of cognitive functioning.
Cure: Meditate. Give your brain a break from the multitasking nature of your job by stepping
away from your desk and finding a private area for a few minutes of meditation. According to
Rosen, meditation is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress. "It forces us to stop, sit
quietly within ourselves, identify the sources of our excessive stress, and focuses us on calming
ourselves down, living in the moment not hijacked by the past or worrying about the future," he
says.
There's also evidence that the practice can benefit your brain. In 2011, a team of Harvardaffiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital conducted an eight-week mindfulness

meditation program. Meditating for 27 minutes each day, the 16 participants showed measurable
changes in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
Lunchtime means a fast food trip. Along with altering your ability to think, the release of cortisol
can also make you crave calorie-rich, sugary foods. "When we're stressed, we may not take care
of our bodies nutritionally as well," Scott says. "We tend to crave sugary foods, junk foods and
things that will affect how sharp we're thinking."
Cure: Commit to a healthier diet. Come lunchtime, you may crave a meal loaded with calories if
you're feeling frazzled. "[But] making a conscious effort to cut down on unhealthy eating when
stressed, and then actively engaging in healthier stress-relief habits, can help break the cycle,"
Scott says. She recommends reducing portions, snacking on nutritious options such as peanut
butter and sliced apples, and resolving to eat only healthy food and only when hungry