Fresh out of college, Ashwin Kypa (name changed) worked with passion to tackle the challenges in his new role as a software professional. He soon became the star performer of his team. The constant grind and the deadline pressure, however, began to wear him down. In four years, his passion for work diminished. “I took on more than I could chew and there came a point when I couldn’t handle it anymore. I started having nightmares about work,” says 28-year-old Ashwin, who is currently undergoing rehabilitation therapy to combat stress.
In today's world, there are hundreds of people who feel worn out due to stress at work. According to a study conducted in 2011 by the American Psychological Association, about 36 per cent of the working population is highly stressed. Long hours at work, undue workload, unreasonable deadlines, poor relationships with colleagues, insufficient job skills, structural changes in the organisation, role demands, personal or financial problems, are some common on-the-job stress triggers.
Impact of stress
Although you may find working under pressure a terrific motivator, prolonged stress will drain you—physically and emotionally. Stress also quashes your creativity and hampers productivity. “Stress can make you worry about things that you don’t really have to worry about and you lose your ability to appreciate the good things around you. Everything looks bleak and that can make life difficult. You are prone to making mistakes and become demotivated,” says Benjamin Paul, Bengaluru-based work-life coach and senior consultant at Human Dynamic.
Most people are oblivious to the consequences of stress until it is too late. The risk of physical, psychological and behavioural problems goes up in proportion to increased stress levels. Depression, skin disorders, muscular tension, insomnia, digestive disorders, mood swings, and cognitive difficulties are a few work stress symptoms. “I experienced headaches, heart palpitations, I ground my teeth and lost appetite whenever there was a project release. It became a daily struggle,” rues Ashwin.
So, if you feel that your work is stressing you out, you need to take some corrective steps before it is too late. Read on for effective ways to beat work stress and make your work and workplace happier.
- Kick the clutter: Control your clutter or it will control you. A messy workplace can leave you stressed and overwhelmed. “Being organised is important. It starts with an organised wallet, drawer, or file system on the computer so that you know what to find where. An organised work desk indicates that a person is calm, systematic and methodical and this can bring down stress levels,” says Benjamin. “I keep my workstation clean which helps me start the day on a positive note,” says Pravin Subramanian, a Mumbai-based project manager.
- Watch your posture: Slouching at your desk affects your confidence and the ability to do your job. “Don't rest your wrist on the table and make sure your head and neck posture is correct with respect to the monitor. It shouldn't be too low or high as that will affect your muscles. Your back should be well-supported by the chair and keep your feet flat on the floor,” says Dr Chaitanya B R, a Bengaluru-based ergonomics expert and Co-founder of ErgoWorks, Inc. He also recommends following the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, look away for 20 seconds at an object 20ft away) to avoid eyestrain and take micro-breaks every half-an-hour for two to three minutes with simple stretches.
- Be an optimist: A positive attitude plays a significant role in fighting stress. “If you desire something but have self-imposed limitations, you will convert the negative thoughts to fear, which leads to stress. Make a decision quickly after you have assessed the pros and cons of your decision, believe in it and give your best to make it happen. Feed your mind with positive messages when you’re in stress. Visualise as if the situation is under control. Positive thoughts instantly de-stress your mind and body,” says Bhupendra Singh Rathore, Pune-based leadership coach and motivational speaker.
- Read inspirational quotes: Hanging inspirational quotes in your workstation or even putting up your goals can have a positive impact on you. “The vision and mission statements of my business that are put up in my cubicle inspire and motivate me to work towards it,” says Mangesh Surve, director, ENViCARE Technologies in Pune. (Get inspired here).
- Create a harmonious environment: Tap the power of Vastu and Feng Shui to create a harmonious workplace. “The north-eastern (NE) direction is considered auspicious as it is the direction that promotes career, wealth and health. Keep your workstation de-cluttered as a cluttered desk obstructs the flow of positive energy. Don’t keep heavy things in the NE part of your office as it puts pressure on your mind. Don’t have your back to NE as that leaves people stressed. Activate this direction with positive images,” says Pinky Kapoor, Kolkata-based Vastu and Feng Shui expert. Place a green crystal tree on your desk for good health, stability, and serenity.
- Get in tune with nature: The use of plants at the workstation is shown to enhance cognitive abilities and the quality of the air around you. Water features like desktop fountains provide stress relief. The constant and quiet flow of water dampens stress and lets you focus when you feel overwhelmed.
- De-stress with colours: Have you walked into a blue room and felt a sense of calm pervading you? Colours have a strong influence on our mood and energy levels. “Our body has seven different colours and you experience mood swings when one of them is not present in the right quality. Moods keep changing every 15 minutes, and you are drawn to a specific colour depending on the mental and emotional health you are in. Colour therapy is a non-invasive technique that enhances your mood and productivity,” says Nirjarra C Dosshi, New Delhi-based spiritual scientist, healer, and occultist. “At your workstation, have scenic paintings like a sunrise or sunset that has a plethora of colours. You can also use a desktop calendar that has different colours so that you can flip to different colours that you are drawn to. Purple, blue, green and pink are colours that will help you relax,” suggests Nirjarra.
- Smell the productivity: “Like colour, smell plays an integral part in our healing. There are certain aroma oils and floral incenses that comfort and heal your body,” explains Nirjarra. “At work, you can use an electronic diffuser or dab your ears with soothing aromas to calm your mind and body. If you are too stressed, choose lavender and use rose, vanilla or chamomile if you’re mildly stressed,” recommends Nirjarra.
- Curb the noise: Noise at the workplace is one of the common complaints that office-goers have. Most people have loud co-workers who talk or sing, in addition to other distracting sounds which increase stress. Use noise-cancelling headphones, listen to soothing music, or binaural beats while you work to reduce distraction and stress.
- Get moving: Most experts agree that nothing compares to a regular exercise regimen to overcome stress. “I walk around every half an hour to revitalise and return refreshed,” says Pravin. “Whenever I have a challenge, I simply get out of my chair and go for a short walk. It helps me find a solution,” adds Mangesh.
- Employee engagement: Many companies are investing in quality employee engagement to keep stress at bay. At ENViCARE Technologies, employees have a session where they loudly chant positive words like “Live life king size” and “Born to win”. “This has been a great stress-buster and motivator for us all these years,” reveals Manish. He believes in keeping the environment motivated by the use of positive words like challenge, instead of negative words like problem or difficulty. “Using the right words tunes the body and mind and gives energy to tackle a challenge instead of fearing it,” he says.
- Have a good laugh at least once a day.
(In association with ‘SmartLife’ magazine by ‘The Week’)
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