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How to Cope with Stress at the Office in a Healthy Way

  • Dr. Pete Sulack Unhealthy Anonymous
  • 2015 16 Jun
How to Cope with Stress at the Office in a Healthy Way

Every day we see articles and hear on the news about how we can avoid stress—primarily stress at work, since most of us spend more consecutive hours there each day than anywhere else. It’s disingenuous to tell folks that they can avoid stress, because stress is everywhere, and not all stress is bad for us! Yes, stress is our number one enemy in the fight for health and happiness, but not every stress; and not all stress. We need some stress in our lives to merely survive. 

One stress we don’t think about much is gravity; and yet it's a measure of the resistance of our bodies on earth. It stresses our bodies just to stand upright, or walk, run, or move through space. Without gravity, our bodies would suffer from atrophy—a wasting away of bone and muscle. We were built for some stress. Likewise, if your job were completely easy with no stress or no challenges, you would be bored stiff! While some stress benefits us and keeps life interesting, certain kinds of stress negatively impact our health and happiness. Chronic stress is a recipe for a health crisis.

Most of our stress is brought on by our own worst enemy—ourselves. We don’t eat right, or sleep right, or exercise enough, or discipline ourselves to stay focused and balanced. While at home we think about fires to be put out at work, and while at work we are thinking about fires to be put out at home. We work so hard to get more and be more that we don’t take the time to enjoy and appreciate what we already have and who we already are. This type of lifestyle is a formula for stress-induced illness.

We can cope with much of this stress by changing a few habits. Is it simple? Yes. Will it be easy? Let’s just say that anything worth having is worth working for. The trick is to gear our lives not to avoid stress, but to become more resilient in the face of stress. The mighty oak tree is strong and tough, but a really good wind will uproot it. The willow, though lovely, does not portray strength. Yet it is stronger than the oak because it is resilient and pliable in the face of harsh weather. If we can learn this type of resilience and adaptability, we will find ourselves much less stressed out. This will lead to more overall contentment and happiness with our lives—both at home and at work.

Here are five good tools for staying resilient in the face of stress at the office or job site:

1. Show up well rested.

  • A good day’s work starts with a good night’s sleep.
  • Melatonin production peaks at 10 pm, so the closer to that hour you can call it quits, the better.
  • Give yourself a “no technology zone” in the bedroom.
    • Turn off phones and tablets an hour before retiring.
    • Read a book, listen to music, talk with your partner, meditate; give that left brain a rest so you can unwind and sleep.
  • Keep it cool. Optimal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 68 degrees.
  • Keep it dark. Your pineal gland senses light even when your eyes are closed. Light interferes with melatonin production and disrupts sleep. Invest in “blackout” draperies so you can sleep longer.

2. Show up well fed.

  • Don’t eat junk for breakfast.
  • Make sure you get enough protein and not too much caffeine.
  • Pack your lunch the night before, or know when and where you will eat lunch to avoid mid-day disasters that you will pay for by “crashing” in the afternoon.
  • Keep healthful snacks in your desk to avoid dips in blood sugar and temptations to eat poorly.
  • Highly processed carbohydrates and sugars cause you to be fragile and tense, not resilient. 

3. Show up well toned.

  • Exercise is a stress-reliever. Just twenty minutes will calm you down.
  • Exercise feeds your brain with BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) which makes you smarter and sharper.
  • Exercise activates happy hormones, elevating mood and making you more resilient.
  • Adding two minutes of moderate activity each hour during your “sitting” day will not only break the stress pattern, but research shows it may make you live longer.

4. Show up well balanced.

  • You will burn out if all you do is work.
  • Keep a balance between your work, your family, your community, and your own needs.
  • Keep balanced physically with movement and exercise, good nutrition, and adequate sleep.
  • Keep balanced spiritually by taking time to enjoy spiritual pursuits and time in nature.
  • A person who is well balanced is more resilient in the face of stress, and is a pleasure to work with.

5. Show up.

  • Many times successful people just show up. They persevere through the hard times and are rewarded for it. Just keep showing up, even when it’s tough. It always gets better eventually.
  • Don’t avoid difficult situations, rather show up physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Putting hard things off just makes them loom larger in your mind, and causes more stress.
  • Don’t try to multitask—really be there in the moment, giving 100% concentration to your job, and you will find yourself more productive, and less stressed. Don’t check emails during staff meetings, or shop online for your kid’s costume during down time. Stay present and focused. And when you go home, you can leave work behind knowing you gave it your all, and now you can rest.
  • And finally, don’t forget to “show up” at home. What’s it all worth if you lose your family?

America's leading stress expert, Dr. Pete Sulack is a highly sought-after teacher, lecturer, and author. His studies on the effects of stress, coupled with over one-million patient visits and attention from medical communities led him to create Unhealthy Anonymous - an organization helping individuals, corporations and non-profits mitigate the immense effects of stress on health and human behavior. The Unhealthy Anonymous book will be available June 16 through Destiny Image.

Publication date: June 16, 2015