7 Tips for Dealing with Toxic Stress at Work
1) Realize that anyone can experience toxic work stress.
Even if you absolutely LOVE your job, if your work or workplace is demanding, small stressors can add up and become toxic to your brain and body over time. Teachers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, middle managers and even ice-cream salespeople can occasionally find themselves dealing with toxic stress at work.
2) Take time to remember that you are a full human being with experiences and value that is well beyond “what you do.”
Make an effort to do things that are fun, and spend time engaged with the people and activities that nurture you. Time “off” is not a waste of time. It is an absolute necessity if your brain, body and emotions are going to be healthy. You cannot be effective if you cannot rest.
3) Learn to set boundaries!
We talk about “work-life balance” but that is an elusive goal that it is impossible to maintain over time. What we need are clear work-life boundaries. Make clear rules for yourself about when and how you are at work and at rest. Don’t let one bleed into the other or make “little exceptions.” Even answering a single email or having a short conversation about work during your time off can cause you to keep thinking about work and interrupt the cycle of resting and re-setting your brain needs to create memories, reduce the power of unhelpful impulses and strengthen the decision making parts of the brain.
4) Learn to “reset your nervous system.”
High stress jobs, and jobs that require a fast pace, dealing with many different people or making significant decisions can put your bodies in a high adrenaline, “fight-flight-freeze” response. We may experience it as only slightly stressful, or even exciting, but over time the effect on our bodies and brains adds up. It can result in bad breathing habits, jitteriness, brain fog, emotional disconnection, anxiety and emotional health issues.
The fastest and easiest way to reset and calm your nervous system is to spend time focusing simply breathing, while focusing on your exhale. Meditation, exercise and connecting to your physical needs and surroundings are also incredibly powerfully tools for resetting.
Also be sure to focus on healthy sleep and healthy diet. BUT REMEMBER, these tools have the highest impact if you do them over the long term. Try to do them consistently, not just occasionally.
For specific techniques to help you reset and calm your nervous system check out the free worksheets and video lessons from our 2019 Summer Wellness challenge. To sign up go here: http://bit.ly/Kaliwellness
5) Reconnect to your personal “why” for doing the work you do.
Remember that you can choose how you see your work and connect with your personal values. If you love your work or believe in the value you share with the world through it, take regular time to remind yourself that your work is meaningful to you. Even if your workplace is truly toxic and you need to ultimately transition out of it, you can still remember that it is something you are doing now to take care of yourself and your family ad help you move to the next step.
6) Learn to love the process.
It is great to have goals, but the trouble with goals is that once you meet a goal you tend to set another one, so the feeling of accomplishment can be fleeting. Be sure to set the boundaries and habits that help you enjoy the process of your work instead of ignoring yourself in the moment hoping you will be happy and satisfied sometime in the future when you “meet your goal.”
7) Get support if you need it!
Sometimes you need a little help taking a break to take care of yourself. You may have trouble relaxing, have underlying anxiety or personal issues that make it hard to manage stress and work, or find yourself in a professional situation that is truly toxic and you need a strategy for moving on. Don’t hesitate to get help if you need it! Massage and Yoga can help you relax and reset your nervous system. EMDR therapy and counseling can be powerful tools to help you handle stress and make choices that lead to long term fulfillment. So please don't try to just push through on your own if things are getting too hard. Get the help you need to be your best.