My Personal Wake-Up Call
During the early days of the pandemic quarantine, like many of you, I found myself confined to my home. At first, it seemed like a welcome break from the daily commute and office hustle. However, it didn't take long for me to realize how stressed I truly was prior to the worldwide call to hunker down to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
For years prior, I had been keeping a fast pace of meeting deadlines, networking, and working on my professional goals. Because this was my norm, I hadn't noticed how my anxiety had silently crept in, subtly affecting my well-being (poor sleeping habits, weight gain, and minimal quiet time). It wasn't until I was forced into a slower pace of life that I recognized the toll it had taken on me.
The Anxiety Awakening
As the weeks turned into months, I found myself grappling with heightened anxiety levels as a frontline worker supporting employees, clients, and community members through the emotional and cognitive challenges that accompanied the pandemic. It was a relentless battle, and my body was sending unmistakable signals. My sleep was disrupted, my heart raced, I persistently gained weight, and I couldn't shake the constant feeling of unease.
It took nearly six weeks of gardening and small DIY projects around the house to finally bring my cortisol levels under control. It was during this period of going through the same crisis that my clients were experiencing that I realized we all need to take a closer look at just how overpowering stress and anxiety can be even when think we are “handling it.”
Prioritizing Mental Health for Professional Success
My experience taught me a valuable lesson: stress and anxiety can manifest silently, impacting our personal and professional lives. As a clinician, I can't stress enough the importance of prioritizing mental health. It's not a sign of weakness; it's a fundamental component of our well-being. Just as we tend to other areas of our healthcare; physical, dental, and vision, we need to tend to our emotional and cognitive well-being.
In order to effectively manage workplace stress and anxiety, it's essential to begin with self-awareness and recognition. This involves paying close attention to both the physical and emotional signs that indicate stress and anxiety might be taking hold. These signs can vary from person to person but often include symptoms like muscle tension, an increased heart rate, irritability, or difficulty concentrating. By recognizing these signals within yourself, you can take proactive steps to address them. If you are unable to reasonably regulate your stress response with these techniques, seek out professional help through your employee benefits program, community resources, or private practitioners.
- Regular Breaks
- Schedule short breaks throughout your workday
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Time Management
- Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Social Support
- Effective Communication
- Time Off and Vacation
- Set Realistic Expectations
Remember that managing workplace stress and anxiety is an ongoing process. It's essential to develop a set of strategies that work for you personally and to prioritize self-care to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Success at work is not just about climbing the career ladder; it's about nurturing your mental and emotional well-being along the way.