Managing work-related stress for good overall health

Today, the 40-hour working week is standard across the UK, meaning many of us spend more of our waking hours at work than we do at home. As a result, it’s understandable that we’re emotionally affected by our working environments and carry these feelings home with us. 

From the pressure of workloads to strains in professional relationships, the emotion we usually associate with work is stress. Most commonly, stress is perceived in a negative light, causing uncomfortable “symptoms” such as headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, and more. 

When we find ourselves plagued by anxiety, we’re typically advised not to worry, and while this advice is intended to be comforting, it’s often far from helpful. After all, we can’t simply switch off our emotions, but we can alter how we perceive and manage them. Instead of trying to force ourselves out of these feelings, we should look to change our perception of stress and channel it into something more positive. 

The number one killer

Stress is often deemed the number one killer, with five million deaths worldwide being attributed to mood and anxiety disorders on a yearly basis. Meanwhile, stress has also been linked to the five leading causes of death in America: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis, and suicide. From this, it’s clear that something needs to be done about how we manage stress and ensure our overall health is maintained. 

Eustress vs Distress

While it’s true that we can’t completely eliminate stress from our lives, we can manage our reactions to it. In fact, 20th Century endocrinologist, Hans Selye, introduced the concept of stress having two categories: eustress and distress. Eustress is the positive response to stress, energising us and motivating us to make a change. In contrast, distress is the adverse reaction that causes the uncomfortable “symptoms” we described above. When it comes to managing stress effectively, it’s essential we attempt to channel eustress over distress.

This initial concept has led to many other scholars assessing our neurological responses and how we can use these to support our health and well-being, including Stanford University research psychologist, Kelly McGonigal. For instance, McGonigal is very careful not to describe these neurological responses as “symptoms”; instead, she recounts:

“I would describe them as changes that are taking place in my brain and body to help me rise to a moment that matters. So, I am feeling alert. I’m feeling a little bit raw and vulnerable as if I’m more open to the world around me. And I can sense my heart beating. It’s not racing. But I definitely feel – I sense this type of stress as a surge of energy that is encouraging me to engage.”

How do we channel eustress over distress?

So, it’s understood that we shouldn’t be running away from our work-related stress, but we should be using it to rise to a moment that matters. One of the best ways to achieve this is through movement. When we move, our bodies are put under pressure; however, this pressure leads to positive reactions, including increased energy, focus, and excitement. This is down to the dopamine and serotonin that are released as we exercise, otherwise known as the “feel-good chemicals”. Therefore, not only does exercise provide us with an escape from our work-related stress, but it also trains us to view stress in a positive light. From this emotional training, we’re encouraged to positively engage with other stressful scenarios, including the professional sphere.

Channel eustress with Be You Health Studios

If you’re looking to use movement as a form of stress management, please don’t hesitate to contact Be You. We can create a bespoke movement plan that you can effortlessly slot into your routine, allowing for a greater work-life balance and improved stress management techniques. 

We look forward to hearing from you and helping you boost your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.