Norman Regional Health System

Woman stressed while working.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The past year may have been more stressful for a multitude of reasons, but the workplace seems to be a top stressor for most people. Whether you’re physically going to work every day or working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way you work or how your workplace functions. 

This added stress, on top of normal workplace stress, may present itself in the form of agitation, hopelessness, self-neglect, personality change, or withdrawal.

How stress affects the body

Castel Santana, MD, a board certified family medicine physician at the Norman Regional’s Wellness Clinic and Norman Regional’s wellness director, focuses on five pillars of health and wellness. The five pillars are medical wellness, physical wellness, mental wellness, spiritual wellness, and aesthetic wellness.

Stress not only affects people mentally or emotionally, but also physically, meaning it is something Dr. Santana focuses on and can treat within multiple of his pillars. Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems, according to the American Psychological Association.

“Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on the body,” according to the APA.

Knowing that stress plays a huge role in a person’s overall health – mental, physical and emotional – makes it even more important to have healthy stress management tools.

How to reduce stress at work

Dr. Santana provided eight simple ways to distress at work. Those eight ways include:

  1. Journaling

“Organizing anxious thoughts, worries and symptoms in a journal can help reduce stress by facilitating problem-solving and releasing these negative thoughts,” Dr. Santana said. “Write it down.”

  1. Exercising

“Get your heart rate up to get your stress level down,” Dr. Santana said.

  • Brisk walking and moderate strength training can reduce stress and anxiety, and offer a healthy distraction from negative thoughts.
  • Walk the stairs or around the building a couple of times.
  • Get people to join and make it a healthy get-together.
  1. Taking a “media break”

“Taking periodic breaks from the news can promote mental calmness and help renew your spirits. This can minimize the anxiety and overstimulation,” Dr. Santana said. “Put down the phone. Don’t use social media as your personal psychologist.”

  1. Reducing sources of caffeine

“This is especially helpful in those who are stimulant sensitive,” Dr. Santana said. “You may need to do this gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms like headaches.”

  • Increase water intake throughout the day.
  1. Practicing breathing exercises

“Controlling breathing and breath work exercises can offer an immediate lessening of anxiety and a sense of empowerment,” Dr. Santana said.

Dr. Santana recommended the 4-7-8 breathing exercise which can be done in three easy steps:

  1. Breathe in for 4 seconds
  2. Hold your breath for 7 seconds
  3. Breathe out slowly for 8 seconds

Repeat at least three times.

Some other resources about breathing exercises recommended by Dr. Santana, include:

  1. Organizing/Clearing out your clutter
  • A tidy, low-maintenance home can provide calm after a day of hectic meetings, errands and chores.
  • This also pertains to your work space.
  • Make it a priority to clean your home and work space at least once a week.
  1. Letting your emotions out

“It’s ok to have a bad day – we all do. Sometimes you just need to let it out. It helps to have a friend to talk things out with and that will listen,” Dr. Santana said.

  1. Finding happiness

“Turn off the lights, close your eyes, work on breathing, and just take a moment for yourself,” Dr. Santana said. “Nobody can take happiness away from you. You have the power within to change your mood in seconds.”

Stressors in the workplace

One way to help reduce stress is to be aware of what may be causing stress at work. According to The Stress Management Society, common workplace stressors include:

  • Workload/volume of work
  • Management style
  • Non-work factors – family and relationship issues
  • Relationships at work
  • Non-work factors – personal illness or health issues
  • Pressure to meet targets or deadlines

If any of these stressors look familiar to you, think about what you could to do help improve your stress level at work or practice Dr. Santana’s eight ways to reduce stress at work.