It’s wise to keep a watchful eye on yourself to make sure that you’re not over-stressed, says Dr. Lydia Makrides, president and CEO of Creative Wellness Solutions, a Halifax-based company that is a leader in developing and implementing workplace wellness programs.

She says there are signs that there may be too much stress in your work life. These signs fall into three major groups: physical, psychological and behavioural.

Behaviour signs include headaches, high blood pressure, tiredness, and even grinding your teeth. Psychological signs include mood swings, crankiness, and anxiety. Behavioural problems can include overeating as well as not eating enough, arguing with coworkers and family, and putting things off or ignoring job duties.

As the stress builds, these symptoms will often get worse. To help prevent stress from building, there are a number of things you can do.

  • Laugh. Read the comics each morning, share a funny story with a co-worker, visit a website that makes you smile or watch a favourite funny movie.
  • Organize your day. You’ll feel more in charge, and more likely to accomplish your top priorities if you plan for the day ahead. List what needs to be done and identify what are the most important items on that list.
  • Breathe deep. There are many quick and easy relaxation exercises you can do to give your mind and your body a break. Build these into your daily routine.
  • Eat plenty of veggies. Good nutrition is essential for good health. Eating right will help you feel better, give you the energy you need, and the fuel you require to tackle your job without becoming over-burdened.
  • Get involved. Life isn’t all about work. Take time to spend time with your family and friends. Volunteer with a local charity. Join a book club. Find something you like to do just for you and...do it!

"Talk to your family, your family doctor, or someone else you trust who can lend a helping hand.”

There are times, however, when stress can become too great. “You need to know yourself and know when you are too stressed,” says Dr. Makrides. “Talk to your family, your family doctor, or someone else you trust who can lend a helping hand.”

Simple relaxation exercises you can do at work

“These exercises can often be done at your desk and usually only take a few minutes,” says Dr. Lydia Makrides, president and CEO of Creative Wellness Solutions.

Release.

First tense your muscles, then relax them. Start with your toes and work your way up to your face. Go through each body part. It will take several minutes to complete; remember not to rush. This may be an exercise you can do over lunch in the park or in your office with the door closed.

"This exercise helps you to understand what it feels like to relax, and it can rid your body of unwanted tension,” says Dr. Makrides.

Inhale

Deep-breathing exercises are a great way to relax and unwind. Start by taking a good breath in through your nose, then breathe out through your mouth. This exercise will only take a minute or two. You can do it between phone calls, before a meeting starts and sitting in front of your computer.

“As you breathe in, focus on your breathing, focus on the breath going in and out of your body,” says Dr. Makrides.

Imagine

It is relaxing, and energizing, to imagine the stresses and strains of the day floating away. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply and picture something pleasant.  It only takes a few minutes for positive thoughts to have a powerful effect. 

“This may be a favorite vacation spot, a room in your home, or an enjoyable pastime,” says Dr. Makrides. “Picturing such images helps to put the day in perspective.”

Stretch

When the body is tense, muscles contract. Nothing helps to loosen them like a good stretch. Stand up from your desk and put your arms above your head. Stretch. Bend your arms down to the floor. Stretch. Sitting in your chair, extend your legs. Stretch.

“You will feel much better right away,” says Dr. Makrides.

For more information about managing stress at work:

The Canadian Mental Health Association

Partnership for Workplace Mental Health

Mental Health Works