How to Stay Healthy When You’re Under Stress at Work

stressed worker sitting beside laptop

by Anthony Ko, General Manager at Enplug Digital Signage Software

Can you relate to any part of this scenario? You have a major assignment due at work. You’ve spent countless hours completing it, staying in the office well after you should have gone home. As a result, you barely see your friends and family, and you can’t remember the last time you ate a filling breakfast or ate lunch somewhere other than your desk. Exercise? As if.

Many people forget how to be healthy when they’re feeling stressed. However, this is when prioritizing your well-being is more important than ever, so here are a few ways to take care of your health when your job becomes overwhelming:

How to Be Healthy: First, Talk to Your Boss

The lifestyle mentioned above isn’t ideal, but it’s one many people find themselves in. Before you attempt meditating, taking up running, or any other healthy practice, try eliminating the source of your stress by talking to your boss about your workload. Do you need to be the person handling all of your tasks, or can you delegate them to someone else? How urgent are your assignments?

Mention your past successes as evidence you do good work, but your current stress level could impact your future performance. Be honest about the pressure you’re under. Your boss wants you at your best and will, hopefully, understand that it’s unfair to put too much on you.

While talking to your manager, you could also bring up ways to help everyone else. Suggest that your boss conduct more frequent one-on-one check-ins with the team or that your company displays healthy lifestyle tips on your office’s TV screens.

Take a Step Back 

Even if you have a healthy work environment, society at large often glamorizes overworking. Reflect on how our modern culture influences your stress: would your coworkers really think less of you if you clocked out on time? How much do you value your recreational time compared to getting a promotion? Reevaluate your work-life balance. If work is consuming too much of your time, then it’s okay to take a step back.

Exercise When You Can 

While reducing your workload and devising a stress management strategy with your boss can help with overextension, it doesn’t always eliminate all stressors. If this is the case, make a point to exercise whenever you can. Go for a jog in the morning. Head to the gym in the evening. Do small exercises, like squats and pushups next to your desk throughout the day (you’ll be less self-conscious if you get your coworkers to do them with you!). Exercise is a natural stress-reliever because it releases endorphins, so don’t pass up on those benefits.

Meditate in the Morning 

Stress increases the amount of the hormone cortisol in your body, which causes adverse effects like heightened blood pressure, anxiety, and disrupted sleep. Meditation and practicing breathing techniques can help you reduce the unpleasant side effects of stress while helping you stay grounded.

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep is still a bit of a scientific mystery, but one thing is clear: we need it. A lack of sleep can impair your cognitive and other bodily functions, so be disciplined about getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Your body and brain will thank you for it.

Eat Nutritious Foods 

Stress can induce feelings of depression and anxiety, making you feel inclined to eat unhealthy foods to counteract those feelings. This is only a short-term fix, though, and will take a toll on your body in the long-run (you may even begin to feel stressed about your eating habits). Remember that health and nutrition go hand-in-hand, so be proactive about eating well to have the necessary energy to function throughout the day.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

When do you feel happiest and the most fulfilled? One of your answers is probably when you’re spending time with family and friends. Humans are social creatures, so we need interaction with others to thrive and survive. And making friends at work can help you feel less alone, too. Plus, spending time with loved ones gives you more opportunities to talk about your stress instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re struggling to manage the way stress affects your health, it’s wise to talk to a professional therapist or counselor. All of the practices above can help you reduce stress symptoms, but a licensed therapist can help you process your emotions in a healthy way. A third-party perspective from a professional who is not a friend or family member is invaluable because they can hold you accountable and suggest techniques and other life changes that improve your mental health.

Make Time for Hobbies 

According to research, an eight-hour workday is too long. Unless you’re one of those lucky few who work in a field they are genuinely passionate about, it’s unlikely that you’re able to dedicate the amount of mental energy demanded of you or focus for several hours at a time. If your company isn’t willing to reduce your hours, then make time for the hobbies that give you joy whenever you have a spare moment. Making space in your week for therapeutic hobbies like art, music, and sports can help you find balance.
Stress can make you forget to take care of your health. However, the more you prioritize your well-being, the lesser your symptoms of stress will be.