We’ve all experienced it. You know, that immediate sense of overwhelm and dread from a flood of work emails over the weekend, or the swelling of anxiety after being excluded from a meeting with the boss. Stress and the workplace seem to be inseparable, and while some forms of stress can have positive effects on your performance, too much stress can bring an entire day to a standstill. Bad stress manifests in many forms, including but not limited to: physical aches and pains, brain fog, digestive issues, fatigue, and anxiousness. Not to mention it can wreak havoc on your hair: The stress hormone cortisol can trigger hair growth-harming pathways in the body. Here are some ways to cope with stressors during the workday.
Stay in the moment: don’t focus on “what-ifs”
It’s easy to fall into the blackhole of what-ifs or to dwell on the past when conflict occurs. Many of those what-ifs are completely hypothetical yet we think of them as a reality. The next time you catch yourself dwelling on what could be happening, ask yourself what you’re making up in that moment. Taking into consideration what you are fictionalizing about the situation can help to bring yourself back to present. Leaning into your stress and focusing on staying in the moment will give you the opportunity to see the problem for what it is and act on it in the moment.
Breathing exercises and movement
If your stress is showing up as brain fog, worry, or tightness in the chest, breathing techniques and movement can help bring you back to center. Box breathing is one technique in which you take four breaths and hold each inhale and exhale for four counts—Inhale, hold 1-2-3-4, exhale, hold 1-2-3-4, inhale, hold 1-2-3-4-, exhale, hold 1-2-3-4—and repeat up to 10 times. Some people find it helpful to mentally or physically draw a square to the rhythm of their breathing as they work through the exercise. Office friendly yoga poses, like a seated backbend or side twist, and taking a walk around the parking lot can also release tension and offer a quick mental break from the issue at hand. Breathing and movement can be used for both emotional maintenance and to deescalate rising tensions in the heat of the moment.
Taken orally, adaptogens can be used to harmonize the body and cope with various forms of stress. Adaptogens like ashwagandha, reishi, and rhodiola are sometimes considered to be “holy grail” supplements because they may help to alleviate the physical and emotional effects of stress, fatigue, arthritis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, low libido, infertility, and more. While each adaptogen is different, they are all considered to be effective natural calming agents with the ability to combat low energy and beat out brain fog. The next time you feel that 3 pm slump coming on, it may be time to grab a reishi tea for some piece of mind.
Talk to a therapist
If the stress you experience at work follows you home on the regular, and DIY coping techniques don’t seem to be working, it might be time to consider reaching out to a clinical mental health counselor. Therapists can do a lot more than just talk therapy; if delving into your childhood isn’t your preference, look for someone with a background in CBT, ACT, or Solution Focused therapy to help you tackle your problems head on.
By Caitlin Luetger-Schlewitt