Stress: The Good, The Bad, and How to Navigate it at Work

Stress is a given in our modern lives. We can’t escape it fully – nor would that necessarily be a good thing. Though it gets a pretty bad rap, some stress can actually be beneficial in helping us to move forward and grow in life.

Regardless of how it’s classified, stress is our body’s way of responding to a demand or threat. In the presence of the stressor, the body kicks into what’s known as “fight or flight” mode, or the “stress response”.

The Types of Stress

We’ll start with Distress — the “bad stress”. Perhaps the most widely-recognized type of stress, it’s the kind that, especially when chronic, can lead to major health issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also exacerbate mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Distress may be triggered by a variety of factors including the death of a loved one, relationship issues/divorce, isolation, financial issues, sleep problems, or simply working too much.

Then, we have Eustress – the “good stress”. It’s the type that inspires, motivates, and ultimately, it’s what helps us feel alive. You might experience this form of stress when you apply for a job, have a child, embark down a new educational path, or engage in any activity that requires coordinated effort that will help you achieve a certain goal or fulfill a piece of your potential in the end.

What’s more, the “good stress” may even make us more compassionate and in-tune with those around us. Researchers at Penn State discovered in this study that experiencing stress made people more likely to give and receive emotional support.

An even more recent study done by the same institution found that though people who reported fewer stressors reported fewer health issues, they were more likely to have lower cognitive function.

So, if you ever find yourself thinking, “I just want to live a life that’s entirely stress free” – that may not be the best solution either.

As with most things in life – stress management requires balance. But how do we find it?

Managing Work-Related Stress

When it comes to managing work stress, there are many actions you can take as an individual. The good news is that employees are not alone. More and more companies are accepting the responsibility placed on them in recent years to support employees with managing their stress levels.

Stress-reduction activities and strategies:

Listen inward and build self-awareness – Spend time tuning into your body’s signals – meditate, practice yoga,  journal, connect with yourself. The more attuned you become to inner signals like tension in your body or a foggy brain, you’ll begin to see when you’ve reached the threshold of overwork and the easier it will be to remember its time for some stress relief.

Movement – have you gone outside today? If not, go take a walk! It can be as simple as that. Move in ways that brings you joy. Add a high-energy virtual wellness class like Zumba or HIIT to your weekly schedule. You may have to take lots of different approaches before you find what works for you.

Nutrition – do an honest assessment of your diet. What we eat can have a huge effect on body and brain/nervous-system function. Make sure you’re incorporating a wide range of foods (eat the rainbow!) and don’t forget to include plenty of protein-rich foods for sustained energy.

Emotional/Spiritual Health – what have you done to fuel your spirit lately? Whether its finding inspiration through a yoga or meditation practice, connecting with old friends or communing with nature, attending to our emotional/spiritual health can play a significant role in stress-reduction efforts.

Sleep/Rest – Prioritize good sleep hygiene – turn off screens at a certain time and make sure you leave ample time to unwind at the end of each day.

How can employers help?:

The single-most important step that Employers/HR managers can take in supporting employees with all of the above is to prioritize a culture of well-being at work and, within that, provide a framework for employees to achieve a better balance between work and activities that allow them to de-stress. Allocating resources toward a well-rounded employee wellness plan – one that can flex and changes with employees’ shifting needs and during these still-uncertain times – is imperative.

The benefits of Holistic wellness programs like those we administer here at Urban Balance include reduced stress for your employees, increased staff retention, and quite often a significant savings on health insurance and medical care. Isn’t it time your company made a shift toward having even happier employees and a healthier bottom line?

Urban Balance is the premier provider of comprehensive on-site corporate wellness services in Portland, Oregon. We deliver yoga, Pilates, meditation, massage, nutrition and learning opportunities to the office environment for happier employees and a healthier bottom line.

We offer many of these services online! Check out our catalog of Virtual Wellness Services 

Whether you have multiple physical locations, employees working remotely (or a hybrid of the two), or employees working across multiple shifts, our classes make a flexible, well-rounded addition to your wellness offerings. Together, we’ll help you devise a wellness strategy that is tailored to the needs of your unique employees – because self-care is now more important than ever. Contact us to get started.