‘Tis the season to feel stressed–but here’s some help

Thu, Nov 29, 2012

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‘Tis the season to feel stressed–but here’s some help

McGill researcher offers strategies to reduce stress in the workplace

The workplace can be a very stressful environment. Looming deadlines, excessive demands and office politics can be major sources of stress, which takes a toll on our physical and mental health. The added pressures of the holiday season only serve to make matters worse.

While we cannot protect ourselves from stress, we can minimize its negative impact by learning to recognize the signs and symptoms and by taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.

We asked Dr. Ross Andersen, a Tier 1 Research Chair and Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the Faculty of Education, to suggest some strategies for reducing workplace stress. Widely recognized for his work on the role that physical activity plays in an individual’s overall health and well-being, Dr. Andersen offered up the following tips:

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1. WORK IT OUT: There is compelling evidence that a vigorous physical workout can reduce anxiety and stress. If your company offers a fitness program, or if your workplace is near a gym, take advantage of your lunch break to get some exercise. Not only does physical activity reduce tension, it boosts productivity. To help ensure that you make time for exercise, set aside time for it in your weekly schedule by booking it into your agenda.

2. TAKE A BREAK: Fluorescent light and sitting in the same position for extended periods of time are two contributors to workplace stress. Look for opportunities to get up from your desk every 60 to 90 minutes and take a short break. If you are feeling especially stressed, go for a quick walk around the block. You will return refreshed and with a renewed sense of calm.

3. EAT RIGHT: During times of high stress, it may be tempting to reach for comforting junk food. But make a concerted effort to eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Candy bars and other high-calorie snacks will provide a temporary kick to your energy level, followed by a plummeting rebound. And remember to limit your caffeine intake.

4. LIGHTEN UP: Stress is no laughing matter, but there is truth in the saying: laughter is the best medicine. Having a sense of humour can help to reduce anxiety and research has shown that laughter provides a physical and emotional release from feelings of stress.

Dr. Andersen and his fellow researchers in the field of active health and wellness are leaders in their areas thanks in part to the generous support of McGill alumni to the Alma Mater Fund. If you would like to add your support, please click here.

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