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The Stress Problem
Because You Can’t Avoid Stress, Here Are Healthy Tips for Handling Chronic Stress
Working as a supervisor or manager is not a stress-free role. This is made even more challenging because you’re held accountable for numerous things beyond your control, such as an employee’s mistake or a maintenance disaster in your facility. Additionally, the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation can combine incredibly rewarding work with emotionally-intensive, highly stressful situations.
Whatever the source of stress, chronic stress can “impair our physical and mental health,” according to the American Psychological Association. While it can be tempting to fall back into unhealthy patterns of handling stress (many learned at a very young age), there are healthy options for handling stress that are less likely to cause collateral damage. As a supervisor, having a healthy, positive, proactive response to tackling the dreaded Stress Problem, doesn’t just benefit you. It also provides a real-life example that your employees can learn from.
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
‘Chronic stress’ is stress that does not let up – as opposed to ‘acute stress’ which is short-lasting, though often intense, such as a car accident. The ongoing wear and tear of chronic stress strains the body and mind and can cause physical symptoms. We all experience stress from time to time but chronic stress becomes the Stress Problem. Signs of chronic stress include:
Decreased ability to concentrate
Headaches and digestive difficulties
People with autoimmune disorders and conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome report their symptoms are worsened by stress
Emotional responses such as anxiety, ongoing negativity, irritability, sadness or sense of overwhelm
Healthy Tips for Chronic Stress: You Can Solve (or Improve) the Stress Problem
Cultivate small, healthy habits. We’re all familiar with the lament “I don’t have time to work out!” Though one of our first responses to stress is often to give up extracurricular things like hobbies or social activities, this is counterproductive. These are the things that help make us more resilient to chronic stress. Ideas for small, but effective, stress reducers include:
Five-minute meditation. You can do it anywhere! Fortunately, numerous programs are available, both free and paid, for guided meditations.
A mindfulness break in appreciation of nature. A few minutes of breathing deeply while running your fingers through the grass at a park can work wonders.
Eating regularly (though it’s so easy to skip meals when we’re busy), ideally focusing on good nutrition
Cultivate strong social support. Both receiving emotional support as well as offering it to others have incredible psychological benefits.
Protect your sleep. Sleep is regenerative for the physical body and essential for mental functioning. It’s also one of the first casualties of chronic stress. Though it can be tempting to stay up late and binge-watch your favorite shows, you will feel better and perform better if you prioritize sleep.
Eliminate extraneous stressors. While it may not be possible to avoid or eliminate some sources of stress, evaluate the things in your life that drain your time and emotional energy. Then decide which ones you can get away with offloading. Maybe a grocery delivery service would take a big weight off your shoulders. Perhaps unsubscribing from all marketing emails will make your inbox more manageable. Maybe turning off all cell phone and computer notifications will improve that feeling that people are always nagging you. Only you can decide which stresses you can afford to dump, but the feeling of “slacking” (in an appropriate way) can be incredibly liberating!
Reframe your thinking. Therapy modalities like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are not just helpful for addressing addiction and mental illnesses. The most important point to remember is that our thoughts influence our feelings, so if we can reframe how we think about stress, it may not have as much of a negative effect on our emotions.
Seek help. We’re in the business of helping others, but that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need to receive help too. If your efforts at handling chronic stress in a healthy way are not helping you feel better, find a psychologist, psychiatrist, spiritual advisor or someone else who can provide you with deep emotional support and guidance.