Stress is a common part of living, especially when it comes to work. For women, the impact can be felt even more due to workplace issues including unequal pay, gender discrimination, and race-related aggressions. In fact, research shows that professional women experience more stress than men, with a 46% prevalence for those employed full-time (versus 42% for men).
Many toxic factors in the workplace are part of systemic problems that require address and resolution. On the other hand, some stressors are simply part of the job and are a normal occurrence, especially for certain occupations. Thus, finding ways to manage stress is super-important for all the women who are bossing up, who love what they do, and who want to continue thriving in their careers. There are meetings to lead, deals to close, and people to serve.
For those days when having a meltdown and saying 'To hell with this job,' is not an option, here are five quick steps you can take to keep it together when work is trying your nerves and pushing you to the limit:
1. Get into breathwork.
Practicing methods like breathing retention can do wonders for coping with stress. (And this goes beyond just taking a few deep breaths). Sitting for a 10- to 15-minute session of deliberate action to control your breathing, center your thoughts and relax your jaw, shoulder, and back, has been found to help release feelings of stress and take control of your body.
Stress can trigger physical and mental reactions like decreases in energy, diarrhea or constipation, forgetfulness, and headaches, and nobody has time for that when trying to ace a presentation or practice healthy management habits. You can take a quick break, right in your office, find a quiet spot near your job, or even use your car for that impromptu breathwork session, allowing time and space for refreshing your mind, body, and spirit.
2. Journal about your stress triggers.
Yes, while at work. Writing down exactly what's triggering you or simply getting your thoughts out of your head can provide just the relief you need to get to the end of the day without going off of somebody or mentally detaching yourself. You surely don't want to do this on your company-owned computer, nor do you want to have sticky notes thrown around your office with your personal thoughts and triggers listed on them, but you can definitely use that Notes or journal app on your phone to type out a few thoughts or keep a mini book in your purse or car for purging.
With "expressive writing intervention," (i.e. journaling), you can improve your mood and see long-term positive results related to anxiety and stress. Don't know where to start or find journaling overwhelming? Try prompts that will help guide you in formulating your thoughts, facilitating calm, and redirecting your focus.
3. Take a fitness break.
Doing some sort of physical activity can also be the perfect release you need for shaking off stress during your work day. If you can take a whole 30-minute break (in addition to your usual lunch break, which you should be taking regardless of your work schedule or responsibilities), use the time for some HIIT, boxing, yoga, running, or walking. For options that are a bit more low-key or cubicle-friendly, try low-impact exercises such as seated jacks or side skaters or movements like tricep stretches that can relieve back and neck pain associated with stress.
Find a great podcast, audiobook, or playlist to listen to while doing this, put a timer on, and allow yourself some time for activity that will increase endorphins (which are behind positive emotions and feelings).
4. Incorporate play into your day.
If you're not into actual workouts in the middle of a work day, try something fun that gets you away from your desk and into some sort of activity that makes your heart sing and allows you to, again, refocus your efforts in order to manage stress. A dance break, playing a game outdoors (i.e. solo basketball, soccer, or tennis), or incorporating fun games in your office decor (like a mini golf game or adult hopscotch).
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5. Spark a discussion with your trusted mentor, HR professional, team, or colleague in a solutions-focused way.
While confiding in a coworker, HR professional, or manager can have its pros and cons and can seem intimidating, talking about what's stressing you out in a way that prioritizes solutions and open dialogue can help you find solutions or at least a way to cope. This is most fitting when the source of stress involves the completion of a project, troubleshooting how to tackle a major work-related issue, addressing a difficult interaction with a team member, learning a new system or skill, or breaking through communication barriers.
When appropriate (and within your company's rules about fraternizing, hours, and interactions), invite a mentor or colleague to coffee, lunch, or dinner. If you're a manager, schedule a meeting with your team or host one-on-ones to focus not on venting, disciplining, or complaining, but on personal engagement. It's a good idea to ask open-ended questions like "How would you approach this issue?" "How can we make a process more efficient?" "What resources do we need to work smart, not hard?" versus "This is stressing me out," "Quiet Quitter Kelly is getting on my nerves" or "You're not doing your part."
Oftentimes, there's a way to eliminate stress related to certain aspects of a job simply by having honest and inclusive conversations, acting on recommendations, shifting processes, tracking results, and recognizing the ways in which workplace practices, habits, and culture might be adding unnecessary stress and confusion to everyday workday tasks.
Trying these five steps can ensure you are your best self, you're able to empower others, and that you can sustain a long and healthy career full of fulfillment and legacy.
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