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Coping with Stress at Work

Whether we face it or not, we’re all dealing with a good amount of stress at work. Stress is something that can take a job or career you’re passionate about and make it feel like a chore. It’s almost inescapable, especially after the past few years we’ve seen. Everyone in the business is feeling it, from the head honcho all the way down to the part time help in the back. There’s a to-do list 3 miles long and not near enough hours in the day to get everything done. So, how are you coping with that stress? How are your employees coping? What trends are you noticing in the workplace environment?

First, let’s identify some ways to cope with stress in a positive way. These would be the ideal ways for everyone to deal with stress and not let it affect or bodies or minds, the goals we could set for ourselves. Some people exercise, which can range in intensity from a workout to a run to simply going for a walk. Getting exercise is a scientifically proven way to increase the good chemicals in your brain and combat the stress chemicals. Some people have hobbies that they dive into, giving themselves a distraction that allows them to create something or do something productive. Another good way to cope with stress is to spend time with family – unless that family is a source of stress! Rest is also an important way of coping. Giving your body the chance to rest and recharge can keep you from running ragged.

Alright, so how about some of those negative ways to cope with stress? Drinking in response to stress is unnervingly common and is extremely dangerous. Smoking falls right in line with drinking and often goes hand in hand. Anger can often present itself in response to stress, either as a reaction to a stressful event or just holding onto anger for reasons you may not be able to describe. Perhaps the most dangerous way of coping with stress is turning to drugs as a solution. Now, I’m not talking about just painkillers or meth here. Drug addictions can begin as experimenting with stimulants to help keep you motivated throughout the day, things like Adderall and Ritalin can be abused and become addictive. Stimulants are a very dangerous “solution” to handling work related stress. What seems like a temporary fix to get through a hard time can quickly spiral into meth use, cocaine addiction and complete dependency on amphetamines. If you have a moment, I’d like to encourage you to watch the video on stimulants. It may open your eyes to a larger issue in your workplace that needs addressed.

All of these negative coping mechanisms are directly related to physical health. Each one links to a different health issue that can affect your ability to do your job every single day. It’s pretty scary how something that seems as simple as stress can escalate, balloon up and spiral into so many other issues. That’s why we’re talking about it, though. We’ve got to address some of these issues to continue carrying on. That brings us to the next steps. What can you actually do about it?

A few ways that you can help your employees cope with stress in positive ways is through incentive programs. Providing some kind of motivating incentive can encourage people to make healthy decisions. Some examples of such programs could include a weight loss challenge, a contest for the number of miles walked in a month, encouraging employees to eat their lunch outside, a contest for number of hours spent outside with family in a summer, providing healthy options in vending machines that are cheaper than the less healthy options, putting comedy tv on in the break room, having spirit days for employees (as inspection standards allow), and many more. All of these ideas encourage your employees to make healthy choices when faced with the day-to-day stress that is unavoidable. I’m not saying you have to take this on by yourself, though. Do you have an employee who might really enjoy being in charge of such an incentive program? A young group of workers always trying to liven things up? A secretary who always makes people smile? Ask them for help! I guarantee you they’ll be excited to make their workplace a better place.

Something the Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team is working on developing is a toolkit for you to do some of these things. We’re hoping to be able to provide a resource for you to pull printable posters, surveys, information and even incentive program plans to use in your business that encourage your employees to cope with stress in positive ways. We’ll make sure you know about it when it’s released. In the meantime, make sure you check out and possibly even share some of the videos with your employees.

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