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Kristen Nichols HeitmanThis is a guest post by Kristen Nichols Heitman, MPH, an epidemiologist in the Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She received a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology from Georgia State University.

It’s that time again! April is Stress Awareness Month, so this month we will be focusing on how to manage and reduce stress in the workplace. Numerous studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults – and it has progressively increased over the past few decades. Only 37 percent of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress. In addition to affecting your mind, stress can also affect you on a cellular level. Long-term stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses—from headaches to stomach disorders to depression—and can even increase the risk of serious conditions like stroke and heart disease.

Even if you love what you do, any job can have stressful elements and most people have experienced work-related stress at some point, whether from pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. When stress becomes chronic, it can be harmful both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, only 36 perccent of workers surveyed said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help manage this stress. If your organization doesn’t provide services, here are 10 tips to help reduce those stresses.

1 Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload. Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.

Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.

Turn to co-workers for support. Having a solid support system at work can help buffer you from the negative effects of job stress. Just remember to listen to them and offer support when they are in need as well. If you don’t have a close buddy at work, you can take steps to be more social with your coworkers. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smartphone or tablet, try engaging your colleagues.

Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, trans fat, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol temporarily reduces worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off.

Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and reduce stress.

Try to improve the quality of your sleep by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Aim for eight hours a night—the amount of sleep most adults need to operate at their best.

Prioritize tasks. Tackle high-priority tasks first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.

Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.

10 If you’re overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.

While you can’t avoid stress, you can minimize it by changing how you choose to respond to it. The ultimate reward for your efforts is a healthy, balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun.

Additional Resources:

April is National Stress Awareness Month

Coping With Stress at Work

The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions.

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