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Published on March 10, 2021

14 Simple Ways To Cope With Your Job Stress

14 Simple Ways To Cope With Your Job Stress

To be effective and happy at work, it’s important to be able to manage the stress that invariably comes with your job. Because there are such a wide variety of occupations, there is also a broad array of different sources of stress. For example, many of the pressures that a self-employed plumber will confront are different from those of a school teacher, doctor, or mail carrier.

On the other hand, many of the stress points will be similar across professions. These include difficult coworkers, the need to meet deadlines, unexpected increases in workload, unrealistic expectations from superiors, and more.

Learning how to effectively deal with these stressors is essential. Those who lack good coping skills eventually dislike their job. They spend Sunday dreading going to work on Monday, and when back at work, they count the days until the weekend. All these will most likely lead to them being burned out and possibly quit the job due to too much stress.

However, there is a better approach, and it begins with using simple strategies that anyone can master. Let’s look at a handful of things you can start to do right away to get out from under the cloud of job stress.

Here are 7 simple ways to cope with your job stress while at work:

1. Learn to Say “No”

Much of your stress may be caused because you over-extend yourself when responding to requests from co-workers for help. Sure, it’s great to be a team player, and it’s wonderful to help a colleague. But when this means your own work consistently suffers, then it’s not really doing you any good.

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By the way, keep in mind that when you say “no,” it is a complete sentence. It needs no explanation—you don’t have to explain why you said “no.” Just say it with a smile.

2. If You Can’t Say “No,” Take a Different Approach

If saying “no” is not an option—as is the case when your boss gives you another assignment—then take a different approach.

You can tell them the following instead: “I’m happy to take that on and here is a list of my current tasks and projects that require all my time at work. Which of these projects or tasks would you like me to put on hold so I can pursue this new assignment?”

3. Stay Away From Gossip

Stay away from work-related gossip and drama. Is it entertaining? Most often, yes. But it also sucks up your time and creates tension in the workplace. Moreover, it also saps your mental energy. Focus on your work, not drama.

4. Remind Yourself What’s Important in Your Life

At the beginning of the workday, take a moment to remind yourself of what is most important in your life. In all likelihood, the answer will not be your work. Is work important? Yes. Is it the most important? Probably not.

When you look back on your life, you will not say, “I would have had such a rich and happy time if only I had completed that Johnson report a day early.” This is not to encourage a failure to meet work-related obligations, but you should always keep them in perspective. This will substantially diminish the job stress you’re experiencing.

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5. Write Down 3 Priorities for the Next Day

At the end of your workday, write down three priorities for the next day. When you arrive at work the next morning, review the list again. Make sure you complete those top priorities—you’ll end each day with a sense of accomplishment and a clear view of what you need to tackle next. A sense of progress and clarity reduces stress.

6. Take a Brief Walk

A five-minute stroll through the office—or better yet, outside—can provide you a mental reset and other health benefits.[1] Don’t stop walking just to talk to others. This isn’t a break for socializing. The goal here is to get your blood flowing more freely creating a small jolt to the nervous system that will improve your mood and concentration.

7. Take Deep Breaths

Take two or three deep breaths. However, not just any type of deep breathing will work. What I personally recommend is diaphragmatic breathing, though there are other helpful breathing exercises as well. The diaphragmatic breathing exercise helps stimulate your vagus nerve, which helps to produce a state of calm.

Below is a video explanation of this breathing exercise.

What you do at home will also influence how stressed you are at work.

The following 7 tips will help you feel less job-related stress while in your home:

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8. Get a Few Minutes of Exercise Every Day

Get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. It doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it gets your heart going and you can do it without overworking your body, such as walking, using a treadmill,  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), resistance training, jumping rope, etc. Exercising will help relieve the day’s stress and give you a sense of accomplishment. Both of these act to counterbalance the stress you get from work.

9. Mind Your Sleep

Pay attention to sleep. Make sure you are getting the amount and quality of sleep that your body requires. Everyone is different in this regard, but 7 to 9 hours of sleep is typical. Be disciplined about getting to bed on time, and if you are sleeping poorly, try some bedtime or evening routines to help improve your sleeping habits.

10. Leave Work Where It Belongs

Leave work where it belongs—at work. If it means that you cannot complete essential tasks before the end of the day stay longer, then leave work behind. Constantly taking work home is a recipe for chronic stress. It is like having an unwanted house guest who refuses to leave and then goes with you on your vacation.

11. Pay Attention to How You Transition From Work to Home

Use your commute home to shift your mindset. You can try to listen to a podcast, music, or plan an evening out. Once home, take ten minutes to relax before jumping into the fray of family life. Doing so improves the odds that you will have an enjoyable evening—and a strong buffer against work stress.

12. Take Notes on What Best Prepares You for a Good Workday

Keep notes on what makes for an evening at home that best prepares you for a good day at work. Is it quality time with your spouse/children? A half-hour pursuing a hobby or other interest? Reckless heavy drinking (just kidding)?

Whatever it is, begin to make certain that you regularly have that activity as part of your after-work routine.

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13. Prepare the Night Before

Prepare for the workday the night before. Put your workbox, briefcase, lunch, car keys, and anything else you will need in one spot. Set out your clothes. Make a lunch ahead of time. You get the idea. Five minutes of prep makes for a smooth transition in the morning, which reduces stress and increases confidence.

14. Wake Up Early

Waking up early will mentally shift your perspective as you’ve gotten a jump on the day. The morning feels less rushed, and there is time to take a deep breath and collect your thoughts.

Hitting the snooze button, on the other hand, feels as though you are avoiding the challenges of the day. Don’t go there. Shift your mindset. You should wake up early to take control and make the most of life.

Final Thoughts

Job stress impacts all of us. It cannot be avoided, but it can be managed. Those who make the effort to learn the skills required for dealing with this sort of stress become happier people. They also become more effective at their job. Most importantly, they develop a sense of confidence and optimism that helps them live life more fully. Give it a try. You’ll like the results.

More Tips on How to Cope With Job Stress

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BetterHealth: Walking for good health

More by this author

Forrest Talley

Forrest is a Clinical Psychologist who has been helping adults, teens and children for over 30 years.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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