Whose job is ticking the stress meter up lately? We’re going to bet you’re giving us the thumbs-up emoji right now, and the odds are in our favor. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of workers feel stress at work and 25 percent say their job reigns as the No. 1 stressor in their lives. About half reported they want help learning how to manage stress, so it’s clear that stress is getting to many of us. And it’s happening at the one place we spend most of our time.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that long-term stress doesn’t just make for some rough days on the job. It can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. So what are we gonna do about it? Here are a few easy tips for coping with stress.
1. Learn a Few Breathing Exercises
Your yoga teacher isn’t just jonesing you. Slowing down your breath can help you control your response to stress. According to Harvard Health, shallow, short breathing limits your diaphragm’s range of motion, which can make you feel anxious, whereas deep abdominal breathing allows more oxygen to flow, slows your heartbeat and lowers your blood pressure. So when a co-worker’s passive-aggressive email is about to send you spinning or your boss drops a bomb on you, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and exhale for eight. Doctors believe it helps you slow down your breathing, reduce anxiety and even control your response to anger.
2. Eat Your Superfoods
Click your heels together three times and say, “Superfoods, superfoods, superfoods.” OK, so that alone won’t decrease your stress, but actually consuming them might. Because stress can do a number on your immune system and open pathways to chronic health issues and disease, it’s a good idea to consume foods thought to achieve the opposite. The stronger your immune system, the better it’s able to fight back when stress attempts to weaken it. Enter reishi mushrooms, which some studies have linked to improved immune function. You don’t have to break out a sauté pan and make a mushroom risotto to get the benefits. Try sprinkling certified organic Om Mushroom Superfood Reishi powder into coffee, soup or a smoothie. Reishi is an adaptogen (many believe it is a superior adaptogen). And why is this important? Well, adaptogens help our bodies adapt to (cope with) stressors, whether it is physical, mental or environmental. So, if you know you’re heading into a stressful period at work (or at home), start taking Reishi and you will gradually start noticing a difference.
3. Keep a Log of What Triggers Your Stress
To really get a handle on your stress, keep a notebook nearby and write down what causes your stress each time you feel it bubbling to the surface. The American Psychological Association even suggests taking a minute to write down how you reacted to the stressor and to describe your environment. As the University of Rochester’s medical center points out, journaling can help you control your emotions and improve your mental health. After doing this for a week or two, patterns may become obvious and you may even realize your biggest trigger is something you can easily avoid, face or overcome.
4. Skip Happy Hour for Evening Yoga
A simple happy hour with colleagues or friends often seems like the perfect way to blow off steam, but that may not be the case after all. One study found that drinking decreases your cortisol levels, something your body requires to cope with stress. With that in mind, booze may actually decrease your ability to manage your stress rather than help you cope with it. Further, stress can squash the enjoyment that typically comes from meeting up with friends. So, while you think a few drinks at the bar is exactly what you need, what actually happens is that gin and tonic worsens your stress and your stress puts a damper on a good time. Instead, find a nearby yoga studio you can sneak off to after a long day. Part of learning how to manage stress is developing healthy responses. After a relaxing hour of yoga and breathing exercises, you may find that you’re in a much better headspace to have a couple of beers with friends.
Catherine Conelly is a former beauty and health editor turned freelance writer and digital marketer. She’s written for Shape, Thrillist, PopSugar and StyleCaster. Her work has also appeared on Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Glassdoor blog, and Adidas Game Plan A.