May is Mental Health Awareness Month—following on the heels of April’s National Stress Awareness Month—dedicated to raise awareness about mental health, fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate. As mental health concerns in this country continue to climb, it’s important to emphasize the importance of work stress as an “every day and every month” problem worldwide.
Now that April, 2023 is over and gone, mental health issues remain, and it’s important to continue to talk about them. According to a poll conducted for the American Psychological Association, stress continues to climb among American workers, who are struggling with multiple factors and 27% report that most days they are so stressed they cannot function. A majority of adults cited inflation (83%) as the most significant source of stress, followed by violence and crime (75%), the current political climate (66%), and the racial climate (62%).
A Gallup Poll reported that 80% of American workers suffer some type of stress on the job. And half say they need help learning how to manage it. Some work stress is normal, but extreme or chronic pressures can leave workers with a whiplash, harming their health and interfering with the ability to function. Studies show that if we don’t take preventative action, stress eventually manifests into the body, taking a harsh toll on our physical and mental health. In fact, according to a recent report by the American Psychological Association, about 76% of adults in the US reported serious physical, mental and emotional health symptoms as a result of stress.chronic work stress can be just as bad for your mental and physical well-being as smoking or lack of exercise. Prolonged job stress keeps defenses on high alert and raises your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, chronic pain and a lowered immune system.
Five Easy Steps To De-Stress From Work Pressures
What if we could take one action that improves your mental health each day for one month? It could heighten your awareness of how job stress impacts you and teach you to do one easy, quick thing to de-stress so that eventually it becomes an automatic habit. Dr. Patrick K. Porter, neuroscience expert, creator and CEO of BrainTap, lists five tips on how to de-stress—even before stress sets in.
Tip #1: Deep Breathing. Deep breathing is a powerful way to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. When you breathe deeply you bring oxygen into the body, and brain, which stimulates the systems in the body that promote relaxation and calm. Practicing deep breathing, especially during stressful situations is a great way to reduce stress.
Tip #2: Mindful Meditation. Meditation has been shown to be an effective tool in reducing stress levels. When we meditate, we focus our attention on the present moment and let go of any distracting thoughts or worries. This helps to calm the mind and relax the body, which in turn reduces the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Additionally, regular meditation can increase our resilience to stress, making us better able to handle difficult situations in our daily lives. By taking just a few minutes each day to meditate, we can experience greater peace of mind, improved mental clarity, and a greater sense of overall well-being. BrainTap's guided meditations are designed to help you reach a state of deep relaxation and mindfulness. Our sessions use guided imagery, visualization and relaxing music to help you focus moment and let go of distracting thoughts. By regularly practicing BrainTap's mindfulness meditations, you can improve your ability to cope with stress.
Tip #3: Exercise. Exercise is not only good for your physical health but also for your mental health. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which are known as the "feel-good" chemicals. These endorphins interact with the receptors in our brain that reduce our perception of pain and trigger positive feelings in the body. Exercise also helps to reduce cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, by lowering its levels in the body and provides a healthy outlet for releasing built-up tension and frustration to clear our minds. Overall, incorporating exercise into our daily routine can be a powerful tool for managing stress and improving our overall well-being.
Tip #4: Get Enough Sleep. Proper sleep is essential for reducing stress and maintaining optimal health. When we don't get enough sleep, our bodies produce more stress hormones, which can lead to increased anxiety and irritability. Additionally, lack of sleep can impair our ability to make clear decisions and manage our emotions effectively. Getting enough sleep, on the other hand, helps us to process our emotions more efficiently and reduces the likelihood of experiencing stress-related physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension. In short, making sure we get enough restful sleep is crucial for keeping stress levels in check and promoting overall well-being.
Tip #5: Listen to Relaxing Music. Relaxing music has been found to be effective in reducing stress levels by slowing the heart rate and reducing anxiety levels. When individuals listen to relaxing music it can decrease physiological arousal, leading to a state of relaxation. Music has also been found to have effects on our brain function including the release of hormones such as dopamine, which can lead to feelings of pleasure and relaxation.
Develop A Work Health Plan
Porter reminds us that in today's fast-paced world, stress has become an overwhelming part of our lives. “We can’t escape it. Whether it's due to work issues, relationship problems or increasing financial pressure, stress can take a toll on our physical and mental health.” Nearly 80% of employees cite stress and burnout as the biggest challenges in the workplace. Chances are you, too, are worried about your mental health, and you have every right to worry. But don’t wait for your company to decide what’s in your best mental health interests. Always have a work health plan in your hip pocket, as described in more detail here.
Start your plan by assessing your job and life and decide for yourself what you need to do to reduce job stress and bring more work-life balance. Consider the five tips discussed above, and be prepared to put your foot down when you believe your employer oversteps your boundaries. There are many occasions on the job when you have a choice to stay late, work weekends or enjoy remote work. You may be reluctant to stand your ground. But feeling overloaded and saying no without feeling guilty or disloyal is a healthy practice.
The five stress reduction techniques listed by Porter can help everyone manage and reduce their stress levels, leading to improved overall well-being. “These tips will provide practical and easy-to-implement strategies for reducing stress, such as exercise, mindfulness and deep breathing, which can help individuals feel more relaxed and focused,” Porter concludes. “These tips can be helpful for anyone looking to reduce stress and improve their quality of life.”
It’s great to have a mental health awareness month to raise the importance of stress management and burnout prevention. Yet, let’s not just pay attention to the problem for one month out of the year but every month out of the year.