With stress being one of the leading causes of sick days, easing the symptoms should be at the top of every agenda.
With stress being a leading cause of sick days among non-manual workers, easing the symptoms should be at the top of every agenda, writes psychologist and nutritional therapist Susan Scott.
Here are her ten stress-busting tips.
1) Increase your personal stress awareness and recognise the symptoms. These can be physical, emotional, behavioural or psychological. Consider what might be causing them and what action might be required to address the causes.
2) Review your diet and lifestyle. Be honest about what are you drinking, smoking and eating. Caffeine mimics many of the chemicals in our brain that cause peaks and troughs in energy patterns, while alcohol upsets sleep patterns and is not the relaxant people believe it is. An alternative is caffeine-free tea. Also, drink lots of water because the brain does not operate well when dehydrated.
3) Stress increases our demand for certain nutrients such as vitamin C, B, zinc and protein. Don’t skip breakfast. Always have something to eat by 10am to balance blood sugar and energy throughout the day. Having some protein at each meal such as chicken, salmon or cheese also balances blood sugar and energy.
4) Have a general health scan. The stress response can result in a rise in blood pressure and cholesterol, poor blood sugar response and strain the function of the liver and kidneys.
5) Take time out during the day to be on your own and practice a relaxation technique. Choose a quiet place away from people, where you can sit or stand quietly. A deep diaphragm breathing exercise is a useful technique to reduce elevated stress hormones, lower a racing heart rate, reduce blood pressure and relax aching muscles.
6) Book an appointment in your diary for some physical exercise such as a brisk walk at the local park, a cycle ride or a swim at least three times a week. This is one of the best ways to use up excess stress hormones, preventing them from affecting your body and releases muscle tension. You will perform much more effectively at work after exercising so feel good about doing this during a working day.
7) Manage your time more effectively. If you’re disorganised, make a to-do list. If you’re a perfectionist, identify a cut off point or time allocation. Prioritise your workload and don’t be afraid to say no.
8) Switch off in the evening, but not with alcohol, which upsets the sleep pattern. Turn off your computer two hours before bed. Have a relaxing bath or listen to music to unwind the body and reduce tension before sleep.
9) Difficulty getting to sleep or waking during the night upsets our sugar tolerance, creating cravings for calorie dense sugary carbohydrate foods and stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and cigarettes. Eat a small portion of calming foods high in an amino acid about 30 minutes before retiring. These include bananas, yoghurts, or a piece of chicken or turkey.
10) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Speak in confidence with a partner, friend or colleague. If you feel the processes are not in place for this then contact a specialist stress coach to help you identify what is really happening in your life and guide you to creating stress-proofing strategies. The sooner you can overcome the stress-inducing pressures and build your resilience, the sooner you will be back working at optimal performance.