Actually - it sucks the life out of you. No, really. Stress is the feeling you experience when you have to handle more than you are used to, and your body responds as though you are in danger. (In danger of a bad review, perhaps?) You know that fight or flight response? It makes hormones that speed up your heart and make you breathe faster and give you a burst of energy. So maybe it wasn't the extra shot of espresso this morning...
Some stress is normal, useful, and can moderate levels can be good for you! It can help you power through and complete a task you never thought you could, or meet a deadline you thought was impossible. Then you get that 'achievement feeling we all love so much. But we all know stress has down sides - headaches, upset stomachs, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships can suffer as well as your work. See - stress really does suck the life out of you. What can you do? Funny you should ask...
- Find out what is causing stress in your life: Really narrow in and find out - is it your workload or one rude, needy client? Maybe a time-sucker coworker is draining your energy and leaving you stressed.
- Learn better ways to manage your time. You'll get more done with less stress if you make a schedule. A former manager of mine used to preach "plan your work and work your plan". Annoying but true.
- Learn how to cope. Does eating chocolate cake make you feel better? Maybe, but will going for a walk and getting some fresh air make you feel better and not resentful later? Probably.
- Take care of yourself. If stress is making it tough to sleep at night, find ways to relax and make night time more peaceful. Turn off the TV (I read somewhere that the TV glow can interfere with your internal body clock!), take a warm bath, get a massage, anything to help you relax. Also - make sure your bedroom is a peaceful place - don't keep unpaid bills next to your bed - that will just stress you out more!
- Learn to say No. (I'll let you know what I find out how to do this!)
- Speak up. If taking on an additional project is going to push you over the edge, is it really worth it? (See above.)
- Exercise. I don't know about you but a good sweat session always makes me feel better. Running is my personal outlet - its a chance for me to zone out and finally breathe and be alone with my thoughts. Plus - when I'm angry or stressed it's like I'm fueled to run. In college I once ran 6 miles out of sheer anger at a boyfriend. (HA!)
- Write. Get a journal (or a blog...) and get your feelings out somewhere. Some people suggest writing (fake) letters to people that frustrate you. Just DON'T mail them!
- Get a hobby! If you're always stressed about work - doing something after work for fun will help you feel better. Volunteer, go to the library, paint something.
- Laugh. Laughter is the best medicine - so get some girls together and a bottle of wine and de-stress!