Amplifying the power in HER voice because today’s woman is #BeyondCapable

Amplifying the power in HER voice because today’s woman is #BeyondCapable
Health Watch

How Women Can Address Workplace Stress 

Self-care is not a detour or a setback; it is a healthy way forward.

When a woman tries to advance in her career, one of the biggest mistakes that can derail her progress is, ironically, the refusal to slow down.

It’s a regular occurrence in many professions. Women—for various reasons—can push hard in the workplace and as a result, their overworked bodies suffer consequences that adversely affect their performance. The most common of which is stress.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, stress causes various chemical reactions to activate the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. In this state, the body is put in an alert state that allows it to respond quickly to stressors. But while this does have several advantages, prolonged and repeated exposure to these internal reactions can lead to a variety of problems.

As stated by the American Psychological Association, unmanaged stress can cause debilitating symptoms. These include headaches, stomachache, concentration difficulties and sleep disturbances. Meanwhile, chronic stress can lead to bigger issues. Anxiety is one of them. Insomnia is another. High blood pressure and a weakened immune system are also problems which can develop due to this state. And all of those mentioned above can get in the way of work.

But if stress can cause a multitude of problems, there are also many ways to address it. A lot of these involve taking time off of work but even for professionals, these aren’t setbacks or detours; they are healthy ways forward.

Start smart

How you begin your morning can set the tone for the rest of your day. So, it helps to wake up with enough time to do light exercises like yoga or walking.

Having a healthy breakfast also helps. While further studies need to be made on the subject, various experts believe that certain dishes can help reduce anxiety. According to the dieticians interviewed by Huffington Post, meals that include avocado, eggs, yogurt, salmon, oatmeal and berries might be useful in this context. Additionally, these also provide one with enough nutrients that can significantly help one get through the day. 

Of course, if what you put in your mouth can help you deal with stress, what you keep away from it can also contribute to this endeavor. For instance, caffeine; it may be a morning staple in many households but too much of it can lead to unwanted side effects that may aggravate stress.

While having breakfast, one must also try to keep work at bay. Don’t check your emails, and if you can, avoid taking calls.

Have a break so you don’t break

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, but taking short breaks is essential to recharging your batteries. Step away from your desk for just 5 or 10 minutes every 90 minutes. Do some deep breathing, light stretching, or go for a quick walk around the block. Short breaks help reduce stress and increase productivity and focus since they give you a chance to decompress.

Breathe and reboot

If you need something to do during your breaks, consider some breathing exercises to regulate your breathing and your heart rate. 

Box breathing is recommended. It is known for being an effective relaxing technique that can take the body out of the fight and flight mode. It is done by counting up to four while inhaling through the nose, holding your breath for the same duration, exhaling through pursed lips for the same amount of time and holding your breath yet again with a count of four. This process is repeated four times; hence the name.

Also known as sama vritti pranayama, this was derived from the yogic practice of pranayama and is actually used in various disciplines to regain focus and relax.

Not all breathing exercises are recommended alternatives in every situation though. The 4 – 7 – 8 breathing technique is also a form of pranayama which is great at helping people relax—and get ready for bed. It helps people get to sleep. That’s not always an ideal technique to use in a situation wherein you only need to calm down and not doze off. 

Take action against distractions

Notifications on your devices constantly fight for your attention and drain your mental energy. Disable alerts for email, texts, and apps on your phone and computer. Let people know that you have silenced notifications. Reducing distractions helps you focus on one thing at a time so as to lessen the chances of getting overwhelmed.

In line with this, it also helps to keep your phone or other interactive devices away from you before you go to bed. Phones, for example, have the capacity to tempt you to do things like doomscroll and engage in other ways. According to Cleveland Clinic, this isn’t a healthy practice to have while your brain is trying to wind down as it may keep your brain simulated and delay REM sleep.

Leave Work at Work

Make it a habit to leave work at work. Once you’re off the clock, be fully present at home. Spend time connecting with loved ones, pursue hobbies, and engage in self-care. Establish work hours and set boundaries to avoid checking your email once you’ve left the office. Having time for yourself outside of work is essential to managing high stress levels.

“Work-life balance is an important aspect of a healthy work environment,” said Forbes. “Maintaining work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace.”

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness—while still undergoing much testing—has been received positively by many voices advocating for mental health.

According to the American Psychological Association, researchers have reviewed over 200 studies on the subject and have deemed that it is at least effective in reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Earlier we discussed leaving work at work, yes? Well, mindfulness leaves the past in the past and the future in the future. And researchers have come to acknowledge that this may have a lot of positive effects on one’s mental health.

It works by basically allowing the mind to focus on the present and accepting it without judgment. This can be done in various ways: through meditation, deep breathing, journaling or yoga. One of the methods recommended by Mayo Clinic is called the body scan meditation. 

“Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up,” the clinic said. “Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body.” According to Mindful.org, it is recommended for practitioners to allow themselves 30 to 40 minutes of this to essentially give the brain enough time to relax in the present.

Work less, work out more

According to the Mayo Clinic, working out can pump your brain full of endorphins which helps reduce stress. It also helps your body respond better to stress by imitating some of its effects and allowing you to get used to it. Furthermore, it trains the various systems of your body and makes them healthier—that includes your cardiovascular system which is often affected when you are stressed. Furthermore, certain workouts—after a time—can get you in a meditative state which. The importance of which was already discussed previously.

“After a fast-paced game of racquetball, a long walk or run, or several laps in the pool, you may often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.” This is according to the clinic.

You don’t have to invest too much time in it, however. The group says that you can do with at least 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly. And, according to the NHS website of the United Kingdom, these include activities like brisk walking, water aerobics, bike riding, dancing, double tennis, hiking and rollerblading. Pushing a lawn mower around also falls within this category.

If 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly seems too long, try 75 minutes of vigorous activity. These include lifting heavy weights, circuit training, sprinting up hills, interval running, running up stairs, and spinning classes.

Keep in mind, however, that these exercises should be done with warm-up and cool-down exercises to avoid injury. 

Learn to say “no”

In some workplaces, no good deed goes unpunished. Do well and your competence may be rewarded with additional work—sometimes this even comes without additional pay or incentives. This is why it is important to learn when you can say “no.”

You start by identifying what’s important to you. Decide what your top priorities are, whether it’s your career, health, relationships or leisure activities. Don’t feel guilty about putting these first. When a new request comes in, ask yourself if saying “yes” will support or detract from your key priorities. It’s easier to decline requests that don’t align with what really matters to you.

You then try to understand that you can’t please everyone. Accept that you won’t be able to accommodate every demand on your time. Do your best to evaluate requests objectively instead of feeling like you’re letting someone down by saying “no.” You have a right to consider your own needs and limitations. 

You can then try to suggest an alternative. When saying “no,” providing a counteroffer to show you’ve given the request consideration can be appreciated. For example, if you can’t take on a new project, suggest a colleague who may have the bandwidth to help. If you can’t make it to an after-work event, propose meeting for coffee or lunch instead. Offering an alternative softens the “no” while still respecting your own boundaries.

Get help (if you need it.)

For some people, it can be difficult to admit that they need help. This is especially true for women who try to prove their worth in the workplace through a combined showing of confidence, competence and independence.

The reality, however, is that human beings cannot be expected to survive on their own. Much of the success of our race is derived from our ability to enact coordinated efforts through various forms of communication. This is why there is no shame in recognizing when one needs professional help when dealing with stress. 

Normally, this manifests with the inability to cope with responsibilities at work or at home.  Physical health issues are also indicators and these include insomnia, changes in appetite, fatigue and pain. Substance abuse is also a sign of one’s need for professional intervention. And then there are problems with interpersonal relationships and thoughts of self-harm.

Speaking with a therapist or counselor is not something to be ashamed of. Mental health professionals are there to provide support and help you develop strategies for coping with life’s challenges in a healthy way. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a referral or call your insurance provider for options covered under your plan. 

Your mental health and well-being are worth the investment. 

Acknowledge the importance of self-care

The fight for equality has progressed a lot over the years but there are still many industries where women have to work twice as hard as men to earn about half the amount of the respect that the latter gets.

And then there are the other realities they have to deal with. For example, there’s the fact that if a professional woman would like to have children, she needs to do it while her body is still young enough to withstand the challenges of pregnancy. She must also consider the amount of time she needs to take off of work to make way for childbirth and the months after it. Furthermore, she must consider its ramifications, how it may affect her career advancement and how people of her culture will start seeing her and treating her after she becomes a mother.

This is why some women push hard at work. If time is harsh to everyone, it can seem much worse to them. They can feel more compelled to take longer hours and greater risks. It can also urge them to use their time wisely. But some have misconceptions about what this means.

To them, making good use of time means investing too much of it on work. It also means skipping what they shouldn’t (like meals, breaks, and hours of sleep.) They forgo much needed respite thinking that it allows them to advance faster. This, however, is a trap.

Neglecting self-care can lead to uncontrolled stress which, in turn, can lead to illness that can set one back. This is why experts from all over the world agree on the correct way to move forward: it does not involve excessive shortcuts; it does not require too many sacrifices.

The correct way forward allows one to actually get to where they want to be and be healthy enough to enjoy it.

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