If your entire existence at work is defined by stress, something is off. It’s slowly killing you and wreaking havoc on your emotional health. You must do something about it sooner rather than later.
The Danger of Chronic Stress
Stress is certainly frustrating, but it cuts much deeper than this. The effects can be serious and extremely dangerous to your long-term health when the underlying issue isn’t addressed proactively. Some of the side effects include:
- Muscle tension. As a natural reaction to stress, the muscles in your body tense up. When these muscles remain tense for long periods of time, negative side effects like migraines and stiffness may ensue.
- Cardiovascular issues. Stress forces the heart to work harder. Blood vessels dilate, and an increased amount of blood is supplied to large muscles and organs. High heart rates and elevated blood pressure may create long-term cardiovascular issues.
- Gastrointestinal problems. Stress is directly linked to changes in gut bacteria (which influences mood). People with chronic stress often suffer from issues like food sensitivities and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s unclear whether stress is the cause or effect, but the relationship is there.
Those are just a few of the physical side effects. Emotionally, chronic stress can inhibit focus, cause irritability, and even lead to a decline in cognitive ability and IQ.
Gentle Ways to Find Emotional Balance
As you can see, stress negatively impacts both physical and mental health in ways that prevent you from being as productive as possible at work. But with a few careful changes, you can reduce stress and promote a greater sense of emotional balance. Here are some tips:
Journaling isn’t something that you hear much about these days, but it’s actually a very helpful tool for reducing stress. The simple act of writing your thoughts down forces you to articulate how you’re feeling. There’s also a very therapeutic aspect of “releasing” your thoughts and getting them out of your brain.
As strange as it may seem, try journaling each day. Make it part of your morning habit and do it first thing when you sit down at your desk. It doesn’t have to be a long or formal process. Just take five minutes and jot down what you’re feeling. Research shows journaling can even improve your overall feeling of happiness.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body’s autonomic nervous system. It regulates dozens of body processes without requiring any conscious effort. This includes breathing, sweating, heart rate, digestion, and even focus. It also impacts how you deal with stressors.
The good news is that the vagus nerve can be positively manipulated through a process called vagus nerve stimulation. And the easiest way to stimulate the vagus nerve is through the ear. By using a special pair of earbuds and specific soundwaves, you can target the vagus nerve and enjoy less stress, a more stable mood, and improved cognition.
What’s your natural tendency when you’re stressed? If you’re like most people, you turn inward and pursue things that make you feel comfortable and happy in the moment. This may include unhealthy habits (or normal habits that can turn unhealthy when abused).
But here’s the deal: You need to push past your desire to retreat and put yourself out there. Exerting yourself through physical exercise can be just what the doctor ordered. Research shows that physical exercise can reduce stress, lower fatigue, improve concentration, and release pain-killing endorphins in the brain. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day!
Sometimes you just need a little help. Even with new habits like journaling and therapeutic methods such as VNS or physical exercise, there can be deep-seated imbalances in the brain that require some professional help to weed out. And this is where therapy comes into play.
A psychologist or other mental health professional can give you resources and tools to deal with specific stress factors that show up in your life. If you’re at a large company, your employer might even have onsite counselors and/or pay for you to see a therapist. Take advantage of these opportunities!
Take Charge of Your Life
Don’t let stress control your life and career. It’s time to take charge of your life and live up to your full potential. Hopefully, this article has given you some solid ideas that can be implemented immediately.