Welcome to the third article in the series ‘Are You Spending Your Health on Wealth?’ where I’m exploring causes of workplace stress, how this stress affects our health, and what we can do about it. Read the first article here and find the second post here.
Last week I discussed our bodies physical reaction to stress and introduced the concept that how we think about stress matters. If we change our perspective on stress, our body follows suit. Embracing stress and using it to our advantage can propel us into action and achievement of our goals.
I also discussed the 12 Elements of Employee Engagement, identified by The Gallup Organization, and suggested taking steps to resolve any missing elements for positive change in your work life.
Today, I’ll dive into another factor I believe contributes to workplace stress and actions you can take to reduce or eliminate the negative impact on you and your health. It’s time to stop spending your health on wealth.
Lack of Control
From what I see in the workplace, the feeling of powerlessness is a major job stressor. When we lack control over aspects of our job, are not involved in decisions relating to our work, are not consulted on performance targets, or are not provided adequate time to complete assignments, we get stressed.
Unfulfilling or unchallenging work, lack of career advancement opportunities, low pay, unrealistic expectations from leadership and management, and work overload are other leading causes. On top of that, relationship conflict with bosses or coworkers, fear of organizational change, and a lack of understanding company policies or direction also contribute to workplace stress.
That’s a lot of potential stress! If you aren’t experiencing some of that workplace stress yourself, just take a quick look around your place of employment, and I can almost guarantee you someone else there is. Or perhaps it’s your spouse, friend, or another loved one that is suffering. If so, please share this post with them.
See last week’s post for stress relief tips.
To stop spending your health on wealth, alleviate stress in the workplace by gaining some control. Express your thoughts, questions, and concerns. Respectfully of course. Need help with learning to assert yourself? Check out this great resource I found.
- Ask Questions – Want to be a part of the decision process then ask to be included. Unsure of why a particular policy exists, ask for clarification. Interested in more challenging work, ask for special projects. Overwhelmed with the amount of work on your plate, ask for assistance. You need to speak up for yourself, as others will not/can not do it for you. Remain calm and respectful no matter the answer or outcome.
- Bring Solutions not Problems – Leaders and managers typically have overflowing plates. Taking them complaints or problems without any thought out options is not valuable. Take some time to brainstorm ideas, do a bit of research, and propose some winning strategies.
- Listen to Understand – Be open-minded to other’s explanations and opinions. When we can see why we are to follow a particular procedure, or why the budget was just cut it helps us to feel a part of something. Seeing and understanding the big picture is valuable for the organization as a whole.
- Explain to be Understood – Have a helpful idea or opinion to share? Ask for an opportunity to express it. Preparation is golden here. Write or talk out your points ahead of time if you can. Use notes if you need to stay on track and ensure you say what you want and need to. Allow others to ask questions of you and be prepared to respond.
- Stay True to Your Values – Do your personal core values align with your company’s core values? If integrity is high on your list and you’re concerned about the decisions your company leaders make, consider a change. Either initiating a change for better values and accountability within the organization or a change for yourself to a new position with a company that’s in alignment with your values.
- Compromise – Find a happy middle ground with others by bending a little yourself when asking others to do the same.
- Learn Acceptance – Somethings you cannot change. Learn to accept those things to avoid prolonged stress or consider moving on.
- Practice Forgiveness – No one is perfect, forgive mistakes. Don’t hold onto anger, resentment, or other negative feelings.
Manage Your Time…and Yourself
- Fight the Biggest Battles – Of all your concerns, focus on what will bring the most significant value to you if it’s resolved. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Learn to Let Go – We aren’t meant to control everything. Let go of the need to control or be involved in meetings or those things that don’t directly relate to you or your position.
- Know Your Limits – Say no when possible by learning to distinguish what is just a should from a must.
- Establish Boundaries – Your time is valuable, don’t allow others to waste yours. Also be respectful of others time. Work to ensure that meetings have agendas and start and end on time.
- Leave Space in Your Schedule – For the unexpected, for things that may take longer than you initially think, for travel time, phone calls, etc.
- One Step at a Time – Break projects into smaller responsibilities so as to not overwhelm you. Focus on and accomplish one task at a time.
- Avoid – Limit the amount of time you are spending on tasks that stress you or drain you. Delegate them or trade them with a coworker if possible. The same goes for people. Limit time with those that trouble you, asked to be reassigned to a different position or department if necessary.
- Disengage – Stop checking your email before or after work or other times you are away from the office. When you are sick, don’t worry about work, practice self-care. When you are on vacation, be on vacation, have fun and enjoy your family or friends.
Spending Your Health on Wealth
Workplace stress doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. Instead, we frequently bring it home, where it affects our relationships, our physical activity, our sleep, and our food and spending choices. Learning to control our stress versus letting it control us will go a long way towards saving our health and our sanity.
When our stress hormones remain elevated for too long, they can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, irritability, low energy levels, contribute to the onset of diabetes, hamper our immune system and disrupt our sleep. And any of these add more stress to the body, and the circle grows.
There are things we can do, however, that aid in reducing our stress hormone levels and relax us. We must be careful though to balance these things as well. Too much or too little of anything may contribute to stress. You’ll find your equilibrium with practice. When it all comes together, you’ll just know.
Things That Help Reduce Your Stress Levels
- Have an identity outside of work – don’t let work become your world, remember who you are is not your job title.
- Exercising gratitude and kindness to others – those who count their blessings and perform kind acts for others experience more positive feelings, connection, satisfaction, and optimism, as well as improved sleep.
- Finding meaning and discovering what makes you flow – when you have a purpose and enjoy what you do, you experience less mundane and adverse thoughts.
- Practicing Mindfulness – stress reduction mindfulness programs have proven to reduce physical and psychological symptoms in those facing massive challenges in their lives.
- Getting adequate sleep – you’ve heard it before, we need enough sleep so that our bodies can repair themselves and function properly. Get your Zzz’s.
- Moving more, but not overdoing it – exercise allows us to release pent-up energy and stress, but too much activity or training at too high an intensity level can also increase cortisol, a stress hormone. Exercising too close to bedtime may also disrupt your sleep. See #4.
- Connecting with others – spending time with friends and family you enjoy, leads to happiness and less stress.
- Being creative and engaging your senses – journal, practice photography, play music, draw, paint, color, blog
- Volunteering – helping others brings great joy to both the giver and the receiver. Lend a hand or contribute to someone or a cause in need.
- Asking for help – a strong support system is an enormous aid in reducing stress. Having people you can count on can reduce life’s pressures. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
- Engaging in relaxation techniques – massage therapy, deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, yoga, or tai chi are all good examples.
- Taking care of pets – interaction with animals has been shown to reduce stress. Be careful though, with some people, the added responsibility of a pet causes more stress.
- Eating a healthy diet, supplementing where needed – reduce consumption of processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Eat more real food, drink tea, and lots of water.
- Simplifying your lifestyle – stop doing the unnecessary, let go of perfection, automate what you can, minimize your belongs and wardrobe.
- Developing faith – develop your faith through prayer or meditation.
- Having fun – spend time outdoors, engage in a hobby, laugh, get dirty, explore.
In the next and final post of this series, we take a look at improving your financial life to loosen the handcuffs and create more control of your future. Be sure and subscribe, so you don’t miss a post!
Do you have some, none, or lots of control over your work responsibilities? How are your exercise, eating, and sleeping habits? Does work stress affect any of them?