Address Your StessOn the heels of National Stress Awareness Month in April, like most of us with over-the-top busy lives, I am extremely aware of my stress. Being a recent MBA graduate myself, the stressors of trying to juggle work, school and life, in general, at times have really pushed my comfort zone through the roof. How to cope, keep it all manageable and under control, and achieve a high degree of success is a challenge, but the payoff has been so worth it once I figured out the magic formula for keeping my personal stress levels in check.

Of course, I know that dealing with stressful situations will always be a part of my hectic life – that’s just who I am. But knowing that this is a widespread issue that has even earned its own “month” – National Stress Awareness Month in April – gives me comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who gets stressed to the max sometimes. But being aware of the impacts of daily stress on physical and mental well-being, not to mention overall productivity, has helped me tremendously. For all of you dealing with your own versions of stress, whether it’s school, family, work, finances or something even more consuming, I am hopeful that the following information will help you find your way to calmer, more comfortable ways of navigating the challenges of life. For me? I’m off to start my day with a morning run …

Physical and Mental Health

When you are under extreme stress, it can lead to:

-Tense muscles and headaches
-Low energy
-High blood pressure
-Asthma
-Insomnia
-Ulcers
-Frequent colds or other Illness
-Chest Pains/ irregular rapid heart rates
-Changes in appetite
-Nervousness
-Feeling overwhelmed
-Agitation/anxiousness
-Depression
-Mood swings

The good news is, there are stress management techniques you can rely on to help ease the building tension – and awareness is key!

When you become aware of your stress triggers, you can become aware of situations where you might encounter and better prepare for these triggers. Though there will always be triggers you can’t avoid, you can try to put them into perspective and utilize breathing techniques to keep you calm and engaged while not feeling pressured or stressed.

Exercising, staying positive, not smoking, not drinking too much coffee, enjoying a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are beneficial ways to manage stress for your physical and mental health. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise and other physical activity produces endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — that also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.i

When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels it as well. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy ... even breathing deeply can cause your body to produce these endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling in your brain.ii

Another great way to fight stress, is to laugh! I’m sure you all have heard the phrase, laughter is the best medicine. Well, according to research at the Mayo Clinic, “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain."

You can also try to manage your stress through simpler things like a warm bath, aromatherapy, listening to music, or spending time on a favorite hobby.

Overall Productivity at Work and School

When you feel overwhelmed and overly stressed, it will ultimately affect the amount of work you can get done. “Employees suffering from high stress levels have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absenteeism levels than those not working under excessive pressure.”iii Stress from an impending deadline, or the need to complete projects, are the main triggers for stress in the professional world. Rather than being stressed and constantly anxious about these milestones, make time to learn how to manage stress through time management, a strong support system and positivity.

When we feel a perceived lack of control over our lives, we become highly stressed. Time management can help combat stress, because it not only allows us to realistically appraise the time we have, but it also allows you to re-evaluate priorities, lay out all tasks, and stay ahead of procrastination! Making a to-do list and planning for tasks allows you to find what is essential to be completed. It also allows you to find what tasks may be unnecessary. Setting aside ten minutes at the beginning and end of your day allows you to maintain the list in a relatively small amount of time.

Having a strong support system to talk through your concerns is vital to success at work and school. When you share your concerns with a trusted confidant, it relieves stress and allows for a clearer understanding and perspective outside of your own. Using these times to take short breaks, even just 15 minutes, can help you gain a new perspective and feel less overwhelmed.

Positive thinking can be a powerful way to combat stress and boost productivity. “A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.”iv Laughing with co-workers or fellow students, having a positive outlook on a project, or even just smiling more helps you build a resiliency to stress, which makes you more productive and able to work through stress triggers more efficiently.

Staying Aware

Although April and National Stress Awareness Month has ended, you can still take steps to address your stress. Apply these resources and maintain awareness to manage your stress in the healthiest possible way! Even though you cannot avoid all stress, it can be reduced by changing your responses to it and you’ll gain the ultimate return with a healthy, well-adjusted life. Managing your stress will help you obtain your goals, both educational and personal. Find your balance, what works for you to relieve stress, and make it a priority.

For another great stress-related post from the Grantham Blog, check out "4 Tips to Handle Mounting Stress in the Workplace."

i https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
ii http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456?pg=1
iii Higginbottom, Karen. "Workplace Stress Leads To Less Productive Employees." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 Sept. 2014.
iv Dodson, P. Claire. "Why Happy Employees Are 12% More Productive." Fast Company. Fast Company, 31 July 2015.

 

Hallie RogersAbout Hallie Rogers

Hallie Rogers, communications associate, is part of Grantham University's editorial board. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science and government from Kansas State University and her MBA from Grantham. With experiences like interning with the Kansas Legislature and holding the office of Symposium Co-Chair for the Council of College and Military Educators, Rogers knows a thing or two about balancing life and how to manage high stress situations.

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