Keeping stress at bay is of utmost importance for a productive and healthy work environment. In these modern days where everything seems to go faster, balanced personal life is key. Even though a lot has changed over the past few decades, our human body is still exactly the same as thousands of years ago. We need to combine what we know about our body and mind and apply it to our work/life balance. Here are three actions that help you better manage stress.
Stress is a self-defense mechanism from back in time when we would experience life-threatening situations on a sometimes daily basis. Thus, stress is not meant to enhance your cognitive functioning, but actually quite the opposite. Self-defense mechanisms are made to make you run faster, become physically stronger for a relatively short period. Some might believe that stress can be good, occasionally, but it is most often not the case in a cognitive and creative demanding environment.
Scientific research shows that in some cases you might work faster, but the work you get done is generally of lower quality. Your work under stress is not always thought through, while too, there's a higher risk of error. Stress significantly lowers your ability to focus and concentrate on what's in front of you. People often struggle to:
- Remember what you've already learned
- Process new incoming information
- Comprehend, learn, and apply information
- Actuate situations that demand your analytical- or physical skills
Worry, anxiety and tension rise and a persons' mid- to long-term health becomes at risk. Living and operating in a stressful environment for a prolonged time can even put your relationships on edge. Feelings such as helplessness, hopelessness, and depression might arise making your sensitivity threshold plummet.
Getting on two feet again, refocusing, and gaining a new perspective can be done in many ways. What most of the methods have in common is that they don't directly have anything to do with your actual tasks. The brain needs a break every once in a while. If you have a generally balanced life, you might have a good margin of cognitive energy to rely on before deadlines, presentations, expectation, etc. Even so, we all need to recharge those reserves, sometimes. You may have heard the coin terms 'meditation' or 'mindfulness' concerning a balanced life. Maybe you think it's not for you, but I would encourage you to reconsider.
In fact, scientific research has revealed that a long-term habit of meditation is directly linked to the higher density of grey matter in the positive parts of your brain. Meaning, there is more active brain power throughout, increasing mental capacity. This is similar to upgrading the processor (CPU) in your computer i.e., more computing power in the same size chip. They found that there are direct links between meditation and improving health. Benefits to your psyche include:
- Learning and memory
- Increased sense of self
- Empathy and compassion
- Ability to cope with stress
Additionally, it showed a link between meditation and decreased grey matter in the negative areas associated with anxiety and stress. Meditation is not really about sitting cross-legged on the floor making hand gestures. Meditation is about awareness and letting a window open for your brain to breathe. Here are six suggestions that can support your integration of mindfulness practices.
1. Looking out a transport window as you commute home from work
2. Taking 15 minutes of rest from your computer
3. Tending to your office plant
4. Taking a walk in nature on the weekends
5. A personal trip without a direct purpose other than enjoying your own company
6. Running with your favorite music playing
There are many options, but the important thing is that you only focus on yourself and your immediate surroundings.
Train Your Brain
Your brain is a muscle- as you've heard before. It's very simple if you don't use and train your brain - it gets weak. That's why lifelong learning is paramount. Research shows that active people, both physically and psychologically, have an overall lower risk of developing a mental illness. For instance, speaking at least two languages on a fluent level can significantly increase your cognitive functioning. Brain exercises can be many things. Learning a new language, reading a challenging book, doing crosswords or Sudoku on a regular basis, taking a day without the GPS guidance and actually use a (physical) map or the street signs instead, or learning how to play an instrument. There are many options, but it needs to be challenging for you. It needs to bring you out of your comfort zone- even if it's just the slightest.
In general, your overall health and fitness plan should include your mind. With your work/life balance in-sync, your body will slowly see stress levels decrease, and an overall increase in health will shortly follow. As you know, your body is nothing without your mind!