While a bit of stress over short periods of time can improve your performance, high levels of stress that last for longer than a couple of days can have a serious impact on your body and mind. According to the American Heart Association, symptoms of stress include head-, neck-, and backache; low energy levels; anxiety and depression; forgetfulness; and irritability. And when you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it’s not too long before both your personal and professional life start to suffer.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to handle year-end stress. Keep the following tips in mind:
• Monitor how you feel. When you know you’re in for a busy time, set aside a couple of minutes in the workday to take stock of how you’re feeling both physically and mentally. The sooner you notice any symptoms like a headache or irritability, the sooner you can take action to alleviate them.
• Determine what’s causing the stress. Do you have too much on your plate? Are there issues within the team that are causing friction? Are you having problems with a supervisor or client? Or are you experiencing stress at home?
If you have too much on your plate, prioritize what you have to do, delegate what your team can handle, and postpone tasks that can wait until you’re less busy. If there’s friction within the team, set time aside to meet with your employees and resolve the conflict. If you’re experiencing problems with a supervisor or client, assess objectively what solution would create a win-win situation. If the stress is at home, set time aside with your loved ones to determine what’s causing it and what you can do to reduce it.
• Practice self-care. You’ll be better equipped to handle stress if your mind and body are healthy. Eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, exercise, and get enough sleep.
• Add some short breaks to your day. While it might sound counterintuitive if you’re super busy, adding a couple of short breaks throughout the day can help reduce stress levels and reenergize you. For example, in addition to your lunch break, take a quick 10- to 15-minute break in the morning and the afternoon. Get up from behind your desk and move around. If possible, go for a walk outside.
• Use emergency stress-busting strategies. Sometimes, an email or phone call can send your stress levels skyrocketing. When this happens, you need to take a moment before responding or taking action. Do this by counting to 10 before speaking or if that’s not enough, delaying your response until you’re calmer.
• Do something you enjoy every day. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour for an activity you love, such as reading, listening to music, playing your favorite sport, or meeting with a friend. This can help you relax and increase your resilience to stress.
Remember: prolonged stress can have devastating consequences. But with these tips in mind, you stand a better chance of navigating stressful situations so you can stay healthy, perform well at work, and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.