You love your job, but it can be stressful. Whether you’re working in a disaster zone or in the classroom, whether you’re taking life-and-death calls or confronting students acting out, it can take its toll. You want to reduce your stress and anxiety before it leads to burnout.
What are stress and anxiety?
Stress is the body’s reaction to potential threats. It causes a chemical reaction known as “fight or flight.” Our bodies are designed to handle small amounts of stress, but too much stress can have harmful effects on our health.
Anxiety is a feeling of dread and uneasiness. While everyone feels anxious sometimes, a feeling of constant anxiety can interfere with daily life.
Look for the warning signs.
Your body will give you warning signs that you are stressed or anxious. Common symptoms include:
- Physical reactions such as headaches, stomach issues
- Rapid breathing, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling
- Difficulty thinking clearly, feeling irritable, angry, and inpatient
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble falling asleep
- Disinterest in the things you used to like to do
Take control to reduce stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety can often cause you to feel out of control. You can take back control through a series of steps that prioritize your physical and mental health.
Step #1: Manage your workload.
Keeping your workload manageable goes a long way toward reducing stress.
- Take breaks. Being able to step away from work, even for a few minutes, can help to reduce the tension.
- Create boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests. Explain that you’re at capacity, and something else will have to give if you take on the new responsibility.
- Don’t procrastinate. Putting off a project will only increase your anxiety as it looms in the background. Get it done first so that you don’t have to worry about it.
- Accept peer support. Ask for help from your colleagues and accept it if it is offered.
- Identify the stress triggers that come with your job. Knowing them is the first step toward confronting them. Work with your boss or a mentor to determine how those stressors can be reduced.
- Remember why you chose this career and the impact you could have.
- Take a mental health day. Take a day off so that you can get a break from the pressure.
Step #2: Take care of your body.
When you take care of your body, it gives you the stamina you need to deal with stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.
- Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet that powers your body.
- Make time for sleep. With early wakeups, night shifts, and lots to do, it’s sometimes hard to sleep enough. Prioritize a regular sleep schedule to keep yourself refreshed.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. They can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks.
- Exercise regularly. It will help reduce the intense emotions you’re feeling. It also keeps your body feeling its best.
Step #3: Practice self-care.
- Schedule some “me time” on your calendar. That way, you’ll make sure that it happens.
- Read a book while wrapped in a weighted blanket. It will feel like a comforting hug.
- Minimize phone use and screen time. Take an hour to unplug, especially before bedtime. This will help you to sleep.
- Get a massage or spa treatment. Take a hot bath. Do the thing that helps you to relax.
- Practice gratitude. Meditate or journal. Reflect on all the good things in your life.
Step #4: Plan your free time.
Know the value of not working. Plan some ways to enjoy your free time so that you’re not tempted to work.
- Embrace nature. Get outside and soak up the sun and the fresh air whenever you can.
- Connect with others. Volunteer for a good cause.
- Get a hobby. Learn a new skill or pursue a passion. Do it with a friend or spouse for double the fun.
- Spend time with friends and family. Host gatherings or plan local adventures. Take a vacation. Laugh, dance, and enjoy life.
Step #5: Seek support.
Sometimes, we need additional support. Don’t be afraid to seek it if it could help.
- Track your moods. Review your patterns and determine how much of your days are filled with stress and/or anxiety. Is it interfering with your daily life?
- Seek professional help if needed. A therapist or physician may be able to provide additional strategies to help with stress and anxiety.
- Support groups also may be available in your area. They are a safe place to explore feelings, and process work-related stress and anxiety.
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