Stress in the workplace
too much to do, annoying boss?

Stress and work

Stress and work are two words that unfortunately seem to go together. Increasingly, if you ask someone how their life is going they will reply that they are stressed by their work. It is not surprising then that work stress is thought to be the primary cause of physical and mental illness in Western society.

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Most of us work for practical reasons and to feel fulfilled through using our individual abilities, but work should not make us sick. Certain workplace factors can be controlled only by the employer, but employees can also take steps to control their own response to stress

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Warning signs
A host of physical and mental signals indicate stress (see box below). The most common signs of stress at work are persistent fatigue, irritability and poor concentration. Psychologically, the symptoms are a tendency to worry, feelings of apprehension, being rude and pent up.


Remedies
There are simple remedies, some already covered in this section, and activities that you can do at work. A visualization exercise need take only a few minutes and can be done at your desk. Close your eyes and picture a place of great tranquillity in your mind's eye and observe it in great detail, focusing on it completely. Physical exercises can also be unobtrusive. Chi kung has a lot to offer in terms of work stress relief, providing mental relaxation and preventing the physical problems caused by working at  computer for long periods.


Practical steps
Consider the following simple suggestions to make your work life physically and mentally more comfortable and enjoyable. Working environment If you work in an office, you should have an appropriate style of office chair, a proper desk and workspace and a screen for your computer monitor, if you use one, to cut out the glare from the screen. Try to make your workspace as attractive as possible within the allowed limits. Plants, in particular, are good for this as they radiate energy. If you like crystals, you could place one or two on your computer as they are thought to reduce the amount of electromagnetic radiation from the computer.

Make sure that your workspace is well lit and, if possible, do not face a wall or have your back to the office door. The best position is to be near a window, with plenty of natural light.

Correct sitting posture Sit upright at your desk, with your knees and  feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your chair is at the right height so that you can sit with both your feet comfortably on the floor. Avoid sitting for long periods with your legs crossed.

Taking a break When you are sitting at your desk, take a complete break from your computer by switching it off if you can. The constant noise it makes, the screen glare and the electromagnetic radiation are all irritants, even when you are not working on the computer. Do this whenever possible, particularly if you have lunch at your desk.
Releasing tension Rest your wrists on your desk or on your knees. As you breathe out, stretch your fingers away from you. Keep stretching them and visualize all toxins and blockages in your circulatory system leaving your body on every out-breath.


This is an exercise that you can practise frequently throughout the day when you feel stressed. This tension-releasing exercise is particularly good for people who drive for long periods of time. You can do the exercise while at traffic lights or when you are stuck in a traffic jam. Stretching the fingers away from you releases all the 'fight or flight' in your muscles.


Relieving tension headaches and eyestrain Working to deadlines is a pressure that builds up and sometimes just won't go away. The end results are tension headaches, eyestrain and lack of mental focus which, if left unchecked, can greatly impair productivity. Taking a few minutes off every once in a while to do the self-help pressure-release techniques above will prevent and relieve stress.

Is meditation for everyone? Is meditation for everyone? Generally yes, especially at this level, which is very much 'try it and see'. The only note of caution I'd add is that if you are going through a particularly difficult emotional time, you shouldn't expect an introductory meditation practice to suddenly make everything fine again.

You'll have more to work with, but it will feel harder at first. Equally, if you're suffering from serious depression, schizophrenia or other mental difficulties, take medical advice before starting meditation. It may not help you at all, or your medication may make it harder for you to do the practice.

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International Stress Management Association. | British Association for Counselling | UKCP - Council for Psychotherapy | The Dermaglow Range