Are you a multitasker? Do you switch from one task to another and never finish any of them? It's so frustrating! Living in a world of more projects and more activities should mean more productivity. But if that's the case, is it realistic? Should you focus on the more important tasks that will bring you joy or success?
If you feel that you need more time in the day to finish all that you set out to do, then you are not alone. Whether you are a homemaker with many responsibilities, an employee with many deadlines, or somewhere in between, it's vital to make time for yourself. Remember stress and obligations never discriminate.
In a 2021 cross sectional study on Workplace Stress and Productivity, researchers found that employees have increased productivity when they have less stress. Conversely, as stress increased, productivity and job satisfaction decreased. In another 2012 study in the Journal of applied Social Psychology, stress was higher in women than in men. Stress also increased if the participant was younger, with less education, and of lower economic status. Despite all of these variables, you must learn to find a middle ground. If you do not find balance in your life, your brain is not far from following what your body feels.
Stress has a huge influence on your body and mood. Do you find yourself hating a job that you used to love? This may be a sign of burnout, a form of chronic stress. There are two types of stress: acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is a short-term stress response to a specific event or situation. This happens only for a short period of time. This type of reactive stress does help you become more productive because it increases the adrenaline in your body. It’s a great adaptive response that is inherited. Acute stress is when you have multiple deadlines by the end of the month, and you scramble to get all the reports in before the end of the month.
Some examples may include scrambling at work to get all of your reports in by the end of the month deadline, or working late nights followed by early mornings to finish paperwork that needs to be submitted within a short turnaround time. What happens to your body in situations like these? Stress hormones are released into your system to allow energy to be used immediately to pull those late work all-nighters and early morning risers. Your brains and muscles become very active, and other functions in your body, such as hunger, are suspended. Have you ever found yourself skipping lunch or realizing that it's already 3 pm and you forgot to stop working to eat? That’s your stress response.
Now that you know what acute stress response is, chronic stress is when you become maladaptive by repeating and activating the acute stress response. It is a stress that is long term and can cause many systemic problems. Chronic stress can occur when you continually have deadlines and feel that as soon as you finish one task, two more are put on your desk or land in your email. This stress can cause many health conditions.
Author, Claude Bernard notes in the book An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine that, “the maintenance of our life is critical and dependent on keeping our internal milieu constant in the face of a changing environment.” When this happens, your blood pressure increases and your heart begins to work harder. Hence, many people have heart attacks when they work too much, stress over bad news, or get too little sleep. Chronic stress also weakens the immune system, increasing the likelihood of getting and staying sick. Chronic stress is especially concerning for the aging population as it can cause blood vessels to dilate and decrease immune response in an already higher risk age group.
On the bright side, we can reverse the effects of high blood pressure by not stressing! Easier said than done though.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
There are many variations of stress response such as from trauma, loss, bereavement, etc. These types of stress are normal. In fact, they can be good for you, however, only in moderation.
When it comes to work stress and your wellbeing, it is important to remember that, in general, human beings are resilient and we are able to bounce back from the burnout. Also, keep in mind that your genetics and the longevity of the endured chronic stress can precipitate some health conditions like:
- Headaches (stay tuned for our next blog post!)
- Gastrointestinal problems (gastritis, ulcers, constipation, bloating, etc.)
- Obesity (we tend to eat more volume and unhealthier choices under stress)
- Heart disease
- Accelerated aging
- Skin blemishes (high cortisol levels due to stress means hormone imbalances)
- Low libido
These are just a few negative health side effects if you allow your chronic stress to continue. But, as mentioned earlier, you can fix it before it becomes an issue.
Improve your stress, improve your focus and productivity.
First, you must accept that you will always have stress in life. You not only have work responsibilities, but you have obligations to family, friends, and other social networks, including yourself. So how do you manage stress?
Change your attitude.
Create healthy coping habits.
Be grateful for all your blessings.
Again, easier said than done. So here are a few actions that you can begin to practice that are scientifically proven to help release stress and increase productivity.
If you don’t know how to meditate, don’t worry, there are many free YouTube videos that show you how. Meditation allows your brain to relax and to regenerate new nerve cells. This is a plus as you age and struggle with memory issues.
You may feel you don’t have time to exercise because of your busy schedule. However, you may find many hacks in doing so. For example, during your lunch hour you may take a walk in your building, climb the stairs, or take a walk outside if the weather and environment permits. When you go out to do an errand, make sure to park far from the entrance. The best part about this is that you might save your vehicle from getting dinged. Exercise has been proven to help relax the body. One British study confirmed that short 10 to 40 minute sessions of exercise resulted in an improvement in mental concentration and focus. This includes taking a brisk walk. Don’t be afraid to take a 10-minute break and go for a walk. You may be amazed by how it makes you feel!
Being organized means you have a plan, even if things do not go exactly to the plan. Getting organized can help you prioritize and strategize appropriate timeframes for certain tasks. Whatever you find easiest—try a physical daily planner or a virtual platform. You can even make it fun by measuring your completion by deleting or scratching out the task. Get creative by customizing your planner with colors and stickers. This allows you to be mindful and gives your brain a break from trying to remember all that you have to do.
Make time for yourself
Sometimes you can’t get away from your work because you are heavily relied upon. But you will always have work to do. The common thread in all that you do is YOU. You make it happen. You make the company work or not work. If you are broken, the company will suffer. Simply put, you are important. If you are healthy, you will do a good job. If you are not healthy, you cannot possibly show up at 100%. Take note of your values and what is important to you. If you need to take a mental health day or two, then do it.
There is no one-size-fits-all hack when it comes to managing and overcoming stress. However, as the research points out, there are innumerable signs and symptoms that can help you identify and pivot to control the stress before it controls you.
Remember you are not alone and Wellview is here to support you. Click HERE to learn more about the Wellview services available to you. We look forward to working with you!
– Yajaira Escobedo, LMSW, LCDC, TFCBT, CCTP
Mental Health Specialist | Email Yajaira