A good, old-fashioned office vent session can be so tempting when you’re feeling tense. You pull your favorite co-worker into a conference room and unload about a critical comment from your boss, the team member who refuses to pull his weight, or an assignment with an unrealistic deadline.
But how often do you leave feeling more clear-headed than frazzled? If your answer is “once in a blue moon,” you’re onto something. We know anecdotally that talking about stress can make it snowball, and science agrees.
Simply saying we’re stressed out activates neurotransmitters like epinephrine and cortisol, preparing us for fight or flight by increasing our blood pressure and heart rate and making us breathe more rapidly. That’s according to Pratima Raichur, an expert in the Indian holistic practice of Ayurveda, and clinical pyschotherapist Seth Swirsky, who talked about the reaction with Well + Good.
These physical responses can come to your aid if you’re, say, getting chased by a lion or a burglar with a loaded gun, but they’re probably not going to help you crush a PowerPoint. And what’s more, chronic stress and the hormones it kicks into high gear can really take a toll on your immune system, putting you at risk for problems like digestive complaints, changes in menstruation and fertility, headaches, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune disorders — none of which are helping you get ahead at work.
So what’s an overworked guy or gal to do? Dr. Raichur recommends eliminating “stress” from your vocabulary and opting for more positive language, a switch you can make by practicing mindfulness, which she describes as checking in with your thoughts and emotions, getting to know your habits, and finding a way to let the negativity wash away.
If you’re looking for additional ways to maintain your office zen, here are some LearnVest-approved tips:
Don’t get stressed in the first place. Sure, feeling tense is sometimes unavoidable — after all, we’re only human — but tackling procrastination head-on can help you avoid stress at work, as well in other areas, like your money and your health.
Arm yourself with strategies for when you do. Out-of-the-box methods like adult coloring books and Pranayama breathing can calm you down a lot more than you might think.
Keep work stress from invading your entire life. We’re a big fan of proactive habits like designating your commute for me-time and unplugging from devices at regularly scheduled intervals to help maintain work-life balance.
Tackle stress in other areas. Of course, for most of us, work isn’t the only thing that makes us tense. Stress can come from a wide array of sources, including — you guessed it — our finances. In fact, a 2015 survey from the American Psychological Association, found that money is a somewhat or very significant source of stress for a whopping 64% of Americans. If you’re one of them, be sure to come up with a plan of attack ASAP. Here’s some inspiration.