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Stress Awareness Month: Tips to Beat Workplace Stress

Shilagh Mirgain, a senior psychologist with UW-Health, says there are ways to beat stress before it beats you. (UW-Health)
Shilagh Mirgain, a senior psychologist with UW-Health, says there are ways to beat stress before it beats you. (UW-Health)
April 18, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – Regular bouts of anxiety can really do a number on your overall health, experts say, and persistent stress can lead to heart problems, risk of disease and changes in the brain.

Medical experts say workplace stress results in billions of dollars in health care costs every year.

Shilagh Mirgain, a senior psychologist with UW-Health, says for many people, work is more stressful now than ever before.

"It's increasingly becoming a 24-7 work world,” she explains. “We're checking in on those emails in the evening, weekends – it's hard to get away from work, so to speak.

“There is more coming at us during the work day than often we have time to manage."

And stress management is essential, says Mirgain, because 80 percent of today's workers feel stressed every day on the job – much more than just a decade ago.

She recommends movement or exercise for three minutes out of every hour at work and healthy eating habits as just two ways to combat workplace stress.

According to Mirgain, people react to stress differently.

"I use the term 'stress signature' as a way of describing that not everyone responds to stress in the same way, but that we all have a unique blend of cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioral symptoms that co-occur when we're stressed," she states.

Mirgain also recommends other specific things workers can do to help cut down on their stress.

She uses the phrase "intentionally starting our day" rather than waking up and immediately checking work email and messages. Don't start the workday the minute you wake up.

And when you're faced with a stressful situation at work, she recommends "the power of the pause." Don't react immediately to the stressful situation – pause a moment and try to relax.

"By relaxing that muscle tension and doing slower, deeper breathing actually has a really profound physiological effect and quiets down our stress response," she explains.

Mirgain says deep breathing for a few minutes after a stressful event can help keep the body healthy.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI