stress management

It's a fact of life that work is stressful. Even if you love your job, and your career is something that you're passionate about, there will always be times when you'll feel the pressure of your responsibilities, which would eventually cause you to feel anxious and agitated.

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But sometimes, the effects of stress can go deeper than their obvious manifestations. Stress may already be making you feel uncomfortable, but you're not aware how far into your body it goes.

The invisible signs of stress

According to a feature on Psychology Today, stress can affect your body in several significant ways, includling:

Emotional dysregulation -  Emotional dysregulation means that your ability to manage negative emotions is reduced. (via PsychCentral)

Reduced hippocampal/prefrontal synaptic plasticity - According to Science Direct, "synaptic plasticity controls how effectively two neurons communicate with each other," so the opposite happens when you're faced with chronic stress.

Anhedonia - Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure. (via WebMD)

Inflammation - Inflammation alerts the body to illnesses or injuries in order to heal itself; however, when this goes on longer than needed, inflammation may cause problems, including heart disease and cancer, among others. (via Live Science)

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Disordered body clock rhythms - A disordered body clock or circadian rhythm may hurt your ability to fall asleep at the right time, which makes your body unable to properly rest and recuperate. 

Insulin resistance - Insulin resistance is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes. (via Diabetes.co.uk)

How do you start managing stress?

The science behind way too much stress can be pretty scary, which is why you need need to know how to manage how you feel. You can start doing so with one simple stepidentifying your stressors.

Lauren Florko Ph.D. cites recent research in her Psychology Today article, noting that "the psychological evaluation of stress can be boiled down to three basic needs: 

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  • "The need to feel competent,
  • "The need to act with volition (have a say in the matter)
  • "And the need to feel connected with others."

Based on Dr. Florko's feature, you can try answering these four questions which can help you start identifying your stressors in order to be able to deal with them efficiently and logically:

1. What are your possible stressors at work?

To narrow things down, you can take a look at what the World Health Organization has identified as causes of work-related stress:

  • "Poor work organization (the way we design jobs and work systems, and the way we manage them)
  • "Poor work design (for example, lack of control over work processes)
  • "Poor management, unsatisfactory working conditions; and
  • "Lack of support from colleagues and supervisors."

2. What are you stressed by?

Here's where you go into the specifics. Is your boss causing you stress? Or maybe it's your workload. Do your colleagues play a part in your negative feelings?

3. Why do you feel stressed?

Once you've identified what exactly causes you stress, it's also important to come to terms with why you feel the way you do about them. Are you stressed by your boss because he makes you feel inadequate? Are you stressed by how long you usually work in a day?

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4. What can you do about them?

A plan of action is always important in managing, processing, and eventually resolving issues. While there are things at work that you can't really change (like your boss' negative attitude, or the immaturity of your officemate), you can start dealing with them and thinking about how you'll act once you're faced with them.

You can then come up with something like this:

Possible stressor/s at work: Unsatisfactory working conditions

What am I stressed by? Being overworked and underpaid

Why do I feel stressed? Because other people who have the same position as I do earn more and are treated better

What can I do about it? Ask for a salary increase, or look apply for the same position in a better company

You can also also apply the same concept when you're feeling overwhelmed with a lot of tasks. Dr. Florko recommends doing the following:

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  • "First, identify all the high-level tasks or situations at work.
  • "Label whether it causes you stress, you feel neutral about it, or it invigorates you.
  • "For the tasks that cause you stress, reflect to understand why (e.g., lack of control, not feeling like it achieves anything, isolates you).
  • "Then, identify how you can either adapt the task or limit how much of the task you do on a given day."

By doing a bit of self-reflection, you can plan how you can react to a stressful person or situation in a way that's more efficient and kinder to yourself.

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