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5 Actionable Ways to Decompress from Stress and Work


We all get stressed from time to time; that is part of being human. Are you equipped with the skills to identify when you are stressed, and more importantly, do you know how to decompress from this stress? When we live in perpetual stress, we compromise our well-being and invite early mortality. 

Many, if not most, health complications have links to stress. And unless you take decisive action to decompress from your stress, you could be in line for a stern awakening. Ignoring signs of stress is not heroic. Don’t be the person in denial about your health, and instead, take action today. 

This article will discuss the symptoms and impact of stress. It will then suggest 5 ways you can decompress from stress and work.

How can we tell if we are stressed? 

We all get stressed from time to time. Stress impacts us all differently. Some of us thrive on stress, and others buckle with it. We all have different tipping points. 

According to this article, our work environment often accounts for significant stress in our lives. We may be working toward a multi-million dollar deadline. Or perhaps we are a medic and responsible for life and death. No matter what level of responsibility we carry at work, I guarantee you will experience work-related stress at some point.

Did you know there is a specific type of stress that is good for you? This good stress is called eustress. You will have experienced it when you felt excited about a first date or doing something daring. 

Bad stress is very different from eustress. Bad stress can be devastating to your well-being.

Physical signs that we are stressed include: 

  • Muscle tension, which can lead to chronic pain. 
  • Headaches and migraines. 
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing. 
  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Increased cortisol levels.
  • Compromised immune system.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Sexual performance issues. 
  • Sleep disturbance. 
  • Absent or irregular menstrual cycle. 
  • Fatigue 

Psychological signs that we are stressed include: 

  • Mood swings. 
  • Change in appetite. 
  • Apathy. 
  • Feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless. 
  • Avoiding family and friends. 

You only need to identify with a few of the symptoms above to self-diagnose with stress.

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What is the impact of stress? 

We now know we must keep our stress levels in check to maintain a healthy equilibrium. We must create a positive work-life balance to promote our well-being. I appreciate that this can be difficult, especially if we have a high-pressure, demanding job or a particularly difficult boss. 

If we succumb to stress, we are no good to anyone at work, and our performance will deteriorate. 

In the short term, stress will impact your relationships and cause you to push people away. You may burn out at work, leaving you with a lack of energy or inspiration to carry out your duties to your standard quality.

In terms of the longer-term impact, if left unchecked, stress can have a catastrophic impact on our lives. I’m talking divorce and job losses here. And perhaps of most significant consequence, if you ignore stress signs and continue living with high stress levels, you may end up in an early grave

5 ways to decompress from stress and work

For our health and longevity, we must look after ourselves. To do this, we need to identify stress symptoms and react with self-compassion and understanding. 

Think of this process as stopping to refuel a car. It may be inconvenient to stop, but ultimately if you don’t stop, you will come to a grinding halt on the side of the road and go nowhere. Sometimes we need to stop or slow down to go faster! 

Here are 5 ways to help you decompress from stress and work. 

1. Decompress by exercising 

Exercise can come in many different forms. From dancing to running, weight lifting to walking, there is something for everyone on the exercise front. Those who say they don’t like exercise have just not found the most suitable form of exercise for them. 

Exercise helps reduce stress levels by giving our body a boost of stress-fighting endorphins

Studies have shown that just 20 minutes a day of exercise helps reduce stress and aids relaxation. 

Exercise is my go-to de-stressor. It was there for me when I needed to decompress from attending chaotic and violent incidents as a police officer. Exercise helped me calm my mind after I was first on the scene of a gruesome murder. 

So make sure you fit exercise into your daily plan. If you need more tips, here's an article of ours that explains how you can exercise for happiness.

2. Engage in a hobby

When we spend time doing something we love, we often get into a flow state. The flow state is a “state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity.” 

This flow definition means when we find flow with a hobby, we find mindfulness

There is a myriad of hobbies available to us. If you don’t already have something you are passionate about, it’s time to go out there and find something. A great starting point is scouring the adult courses available where you are.

Here are some ideas:

  • Painting and drawing. 
  • Learn a musical instrument. 
  • Learn a language. 
  • Garden. 
  • Take part in a pottery class. 
  • Join a community volunteering group.

If you need more convincing, here's an article that explains why it's important to simply do more of what makes you happy.

3. Socialize after work

Sometimes, getting out and socializing with friends is a great distraction and helps stop the pattern of rumination stress can induce. 

While you don’t always need to talk about your work, sometimes it can be helpful to open up. A problem shared is a problem halved, so the saying goes. I don’t condone being that person to constantly offload to your friends without checking if they have the emotional bandwidth to listen.

But I absolutely endorse discussing your struggles and, perhaps, for balance, also pointing out what is going well in your life so you don’t just drag everyone down. 

We are sociable creatures. Sometimes when we are stressed, it is tempting to withdraw and retreat. But this will only make us feel worse. 

When you feel you want to hide away, this is a time you need to drag yourself out and be around people you love and trust. 

4. Read more

I love how books can bring us complete escapism. They shut our brains down from reality and drag us into a different world. 

When we read, we distract our brain from whatever it is chewing on. And get this, if you want to optimize the benefits of reading, science suggests we should read out loud. The respiration involved in reading aloud helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system on the out-breath. 

So whether it’s your own kids or a friend’s kids, this is a great reason to volunteer for bedtime story duties. Who knew reading a bedtime story to young children could have such a mutual benefit? 

5. Decompress by meditating when stressed

By now, we recognize meditation is the answer for almost everything. It helps us find the connection between our mind and body and allows us to engage with our parasympathetic nervous system. Engaging with our parasympathetic nervous system reduces our blood pressure and heart rate and boosts our immunity.  

In our article on meditation, we suggested 5 key benefits of meditation: 

  • It improves our physiology. 
  • Can treat mental health issues (including stress).
  • Enhance our understanding of self.
  • It helps us find joy.
  • Energize and relax us.

Meditation is a crucial tool for reducing stress levels.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, we've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Wrapping up 

By its very nature, work can be stressful. It might not be the work itself that is stressful, but the culture or a dictator-style boss can raise our stress levels unnecessarily. Either way, it's important to decompress from both stress and work. You hold the power to ensure the stress from your work does not permeate into your personal life. 

Is there anything you do to help decompress from stress and work? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Ali Hall

Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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