I Work Too Hard?
One in three office absences are attributed to stress. But if you rewire your body’s response to pressure, you can hit the release valve on anxiety
1 Circle of Strife When your brain senses a potential threat – whether that’s a shadowy figure or looming deadline – it floods your blood with adrenaline and cortisol, readying the body for fight or flight. Your first course of action is to put this hormonal surge to its intended use: a 20-minute run will calm excess adrenaline and ease tension in your muscles. 2 Gut Reactions As your workload increases and your to-do list lengthens, nerves can kill your appetite, as stress triggers hungersuppressing hormone CRH. Over time, however, most people find elevated cortisol does the opposite. “People eat to reduce anxiety,” says psychologist Frank Bond. When it’s crunch time at the office, offset cravings with almonds – their high dose of magnesium cracks stress. 3 Mind Matters Brain-fog descends as stress disengages the prefrontal cortex, making it harder to form rational thoughts. If meditation doesn’t come easily to you, fool your brain into forgetting about the perceived threat instead. “You can train your attention like a muscle,” says Bond. “Simply focusing on the lyrics to your favourite song is a powerful way to take your mind off your concerns.” 4 Breathe Easy If the words “presentation to the board” make your chest tighten, that’s adrenaline signalling your heart to raise blood pressure in order to ready your muscles for a tussle. To reset your heart rate “focus on your breath – each inhale, each exhale – for a minute or so every two hours,” suggests Bond. 5 First Response In evolutionary terms, an out-ofhours call from your boss is the 2017 equivalent of a sabre-toothed tiger, and the threat response will continue until your brain feels the danger has passed. However, Harvard Medical School research shows that men who regularly employ mindfulness techniques can experience improved intrinsic reactions to tense situations in just eight weeks. Turning off your phone notifications couldn’t hurt either.