How to reduce stress and optimise productivity in the workplace

How to reduce stress and optimise productivity in the workplace

Stress – it is a modern epidemic.

Unfortunately for most people, they can’t just run away to a yoga retreat for a month of relaxation, so there needs to be realistic advice out there on how to reduce stress, improve general wellbeing and mood and therefore improve work performance.

Chronic stress (a period of three months or more) can have deleterious effects and can lead to:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Low libido;
  • Difficulty falling asleep;
  • Waking many times during the night;
  • Lowered immunity;
  • Easily run down;
  • Fatigue throughout the day;
  • Strong cravings for carbohydrate rich foods (particularly around 3pm);
  • Weight gain around the midsection and difficulty losing weight;
  • Poor memory;
  • Poor focus and concentration; and
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

All of these will impact on work performance, including increased sick days, so it is essential we address the underlying causes of stress to support good health outcomes for employees and therefore improve outcomes for business.

The healthier and happier a workforce is, the more successful a business will be.

Simple ways we can support our endocrine system (the part that is responsible for our stress response) during the work day include:

Eat a small serve of protein every 2-3 hours.

This helps keep our blood sugar stable and therefore helps keep our stress hormones balanced and happy. Try some of these foods throughout the day:

  • A small handful of nuts;
  • Low sugar yoghurt;
  • Can of salmon or tuna (as long as fish in the office doesn’t offend anyone);
  • Hummus and celery sticks;
  • Chia puddings; or
  • Banana slices with peanut butter.

Get outside in the sunshine for 10 minutes a day.

Sitting inside without any natural sunlight disrupts our natural circadian rhythm (this is what controls our hormones, in particular our sleep hormone, melatonin). If you can take 10 minutes to sit on some grass in the sunshine, this will help support healthy sleep and help lower cortisol. It will also give your brain a rest from work and thinking; you will go back to the office feeling refreshed. Sun exposure is also essential for vitamin D production, which is responsible for immune health and hormone production (make sure you get your legs and arms in the sun if you can, you will make the most vitamin D on these body parts).

Drink relaxing herbal teas throughout the day.

There are many herbal tea options that are specifically beneficial for adrenal health and stress, and many will help improve focus as well. There are many good tea brands out there, check with your local health food shop for the best teas for you.

  • Holy basil tea: this tea will actually help modulate cortisol, helping to protect the body against stress related damage and improve your coping mechanisms.
  • Chamomile tea: is a very relaxing and gentle sedative tea and ideal for people who feel overwhelmed and anxious easily.
  • Passionflower tea: Another gentle sedative tea, this one is especially helpful for those who experience anxiety and issues sleeping.

Lavender essential oil.

Inhalation of this oil has shown in clinical trials to:

  • Decrease blood pressure;
  • Decrease heart rate;
  • Improve mood; and
  • Aid in relaxation.

Practice mindfulness.

This will reduce stress hormones. Many people, particularly busy people, find it hard to shut off the mind and practice mindfulness. I find the easiest solution for these busy minded people is actually adult colouring books. You may have seen them around, they were all the rage a couple of years ago, and for good reason too. They allow a person to achieve a natural state of mindfulness without them even realising it. Why not try doing some colouring in on your lunch break.

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