Work and stress seem to go hand-in-hand, and more often in these days than ever before. While work isn’t all bad, the type of stress that we tend to feel at work isn’t exactly good for our health and overtime can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health, even leading to long-term health issues. Being aware of our stressors—which isn’t always as easy as you’d think—and learning to keep our stress levels in check at the workplace can improve your productivity and your health. HRV can help you do this.
The Effects of Workplace Stress
Stress has been linked to several serious health conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and more. Stressful situations flood our bodies with stress hormones which cause the heart to beat faster, our lungs to work harder as our breathing increases, and our muscles to tense. It’s been reported that stress at work spills over into other areas of our lives and has a negative effect on our personal lives as well as our professional lives. Workplace stress has also been linked to depression and substance abuse.
Monitoring Stress with HRV
Heart rate variability (HRV) has been shown to be one of the most reliable indicators of stress and the effects it has on your body. More and more research is finding that HRV can lead to better health or stress and fatigue depending on whether it’s high or low. To better understand this, let’s go a little deeper into just what HRV is.
Heart rate variability refers to the alterations in your heart rate between beats. At rest, a healthy person’s heart rate varies between beats. Research has found evidence that high HRV is linked to better good health and better fitness levels while decreased HRV is linked to fatigue and stress. An HRV monitor like ithlete allows you to monitor your HRV along with your resting heart rate and lets you compare your daily readings. Originally, HRV monitoring was used to measure the health of the heart in patients following a heart attack and in recent years has become a popular way for athletes to optimize their training and performance. It is now being used more and more to help people manage their stress levels in other areas, including the workplace.
Monitoring your stress through HRV gives you valuable insight into just how stressed you are as well as when you experience the most stress, and what your triggers are. This knowledge provides an excellent starting point for the management of your workplace stress, so much so that a licensed version of ithlete is being used in corporate wellness programs. One such program is the Moove program from Vitaliberty in Germany, which helps employees track their stress levels throughout the day using their smartphone. Analyzing the information offers them the foundation for a plan to effectively reduce their stress, which in turn leads to better productivity and better overall health.
How to Reduce Workplace Stress
While it may not be possible to eliminate all the stressors at your job, you can take measures to change the way you handle the stress. As you can see above, understanding what and when stress is a factor is certainly an excellent start. Ithlete helps you do that in a way that is simple and convenient. The next step is to implement stress management techniques. Employee Assistance Programs are widely available and provide you with access to resources designed specifically to deal with work-related stress. Your physician should also be able to help you in terms of suggestions or a referral to a professional that specializes in coping strategies so that you are better able to handle any stress that comes your way. And, even just turning to the internet for some basic relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, can help as breathing exercises have been found to show an immediate effect on HRV levels.
Along with learning relaxation and coping techniques, you can also improve your ability to manage stress through lifestyle changes outside the workplace. Eating a healthier diet, exercising, and taking some time to do things that you enjoy have all been found to have a positive impact on stress levels and management. HRV monitoring can also help you here by allowing you to see which activities work the most in your favor when it comes to de-stressing.
Other things that have been proven to reduce stress:
- Tai Chi
- Getting more sleep
- Giving yourself more time to prepare before work
- Spending time with friends, family, and pets
- Taking a walk on your lunch break
- Getting more sunlight at work by sitting near a window or stepping outdoors for a few minutes
- Reducing your caffeine intake
- Eating regular meals and snacks at home and work
You can learn more about stress and your health here.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board. You can connect with Adrienne on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/writeradrienne.