The dictionary defines stress as: ‘a force excerted on one thing by another’. Or ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. (wikipedia)
Personally I think stress in itself is a basic concept. It is how we handle it that is the hard part.
Stress is basically our perception of a load that has been placed upon us, which is why everybody handles stress differently. What stresses one person is handled brilliantly by another. Change, for example, is hard for some people and becomes stressful for that person, while another person thrives on the challenge of the same change.
And there are no exceptions in the workplace.
We perceive the load (demand) that has been asked of us as being bigger than we can handle. We feel out of control, powerless and we start to think that we can’t cope. Of course, because we also don’t want to be perceived as someone that can’t handle our jobs or the demands of our job, we just get on with it, most of the time.
Stress, in other words, is everywhere in our daily lives. It affects us on levels we are not even aware of.
See if you personally recognize some of these typical symptoms of stress:
- Headaches and back pain?
- Chest pain and heart palpitations?
- Problems sleeping?
- Digestive problems?
- Or how about being forgetful?
- Lacking focus?
- Sadness, worry or feeling anxious?
- Feeling overwhelmed, insecure and helpless?
So what can you do about it? Plenty, although that is a book in itself.
From my point of view as a massage therapist, I would recommend the following:
Check your breathing: A forward head posture, along with forward ‘slouchy’ shoulders makes us prone to shallow breathing, which is turn causes a lack of bloodflow to the muscles and the brain. Learn to deep-breathe through your diaphragm (but don’t slow your breathing rythm down too much). When your shoulders are elevated, you cannot take a deep breath.
Check your posture: Most people are aware of faults to their posture but find it hard to change it. I always stress (excuse the pun) that the best thing to do is to check your head posture first. Keep your head back (chin pushed back to chest), this will automatically bring your shoulders down. And stand up, move, and stretch.
Have a massage: You do not need a full 1-hour table massage to get the benefits of stress-release. A 15-min chair massage conducted by a trained massage therapist can have the same calming effects on the nervous system and increase bloodflow to the brain at the same time.
In the next blog post, I talk a bit more about workplace stress