• 3 min read
Tips for Personal & Workplace Stress Management
Pioneer of stress and anxiety reduction education Jordan Friedman shares how you can alleviate stress
Sometimes, it seems like it’s one thing after another, doesn’t it? Few of us are immune to the collective stress we’ve been feeling over the past few years—not to mention, a global pandemic that has caused cultural upheaval and changed the ways we work, socialize, and live.
People aren’t wired to maintain this level of stress for this length of time. As a result, they are showing stress-related symptoms and emotions that are spilling over into their personal and professional lives.
Many of us could benefit from personal and workplace stress management tools that help us alleviate all kinds of stress and anxiety. “Fortunately, there are proven ways to reduce stress,” says Jordan Friedman, a pioneer of stress and anxiety reduction education—and former director of Columbia University’s Health Education Program.
Jordan joined us for Haworth Connect, a series that engages inspiring speakers on a range of topics, to discuss ways to create a stress management plan. Jordan specializes in teaching concrete, data-driven, effective stress-reduction strategies—no matter the sources of one's stress—including his popular Quick Calm technique.
The Domino Effect of Stress
Stress can create roadblocks to where we want to go, whether that's clear thinking, focus, creativity, healthy relationships, the ability to get the job done, or simply to feel good. The result is a domino effect that affects our mental and physical health.
“This happens all the time, and over time,” said Jordan. “Stress contributes to illness and disease. It's sort of like a car. If you don't take care of it, just drive it through all sorts of weather and potholes, leave it outside all the time, it eventually breaks down and looks terrible. It just won't go anymore. That's really what stress does to a person, in a cumulative way over time.”
Personal and Workplace Stress Management Tips
There are some actions we can take to amp up our stress reduction:
- Stop watching the news non-stop. Avoidance can be a powerful stress reducer.
- Identify your favorite and most convenient de-stressor. That can be meditating, listening to music, or going outside for a walk. Stress management is personal.
- Improve your sleep, both in quality and quantity. Rest is foundational to health and your immune system. The combination of sleep deprivation and stress weakens the immune system.
Recognizing Stress & the Quick Calm Technique
A personal and workplace stress management plan can help us become more aware of our stress levels. This involves checking our personal “dashboards”—the body’s stress indicators and gauges—and most of us don’t do that often enough to see how we are doing.
For example, stress affects breathing, which affects blood flow and skin temperature. It sends our bodies into fight-or-flight mode to deal with that stress. “When that happens, more blood is concentrated around our hearts and around our brains, so, therefore, less blood is flowing to our hands, and the skin on our hands gets cooler,” Jordan said.
Once you recognize you’re heading into a stressful state—say, quite literally experiencing cold feet or hands, Jordan’s Quick Calm technique can help. In this case, the technique involves closing your eyes and inhaling, holding your breath, and thinking to yourself, “I’m warm,” then exhaling and saying, “I’m calm.” This diaphragm breathing technique stimulates the vagus nerve, which sends a message to the body that it's time to relax and de-stress. This leads to long-term improvements in mood and well-being.