Stress manifests differently for each of us. While common symptoms include muscle strain, headaches, digestive problems, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, worry and even depression, the triggers for stress are highly individualized.

Specifically, chronic stress in the workplace can damage your brain and, long-term, cause permanent structural damage. The sources of work stress are many. They may be due to the type of job you work, your level of responsibility, your work environment, or your personality.

Work Stress Sources

Overload. You feel overwhelmed by your duties and tasks. This type of work stress leads to tension and anxiety, mental blocks, and even panic attacks.

Responsibility burdens. Your position in the company can have serious consequences, and you feel weighed down by constantly being required to meet ever-increasing work goals.

Feelings of powerlessness. You have limited influence on your job to change a negative work environment. If you are a perfectionist, this lack of control can be frustrating when things don’t meet your standards and you can’t do anything about it.

These feelings may lead to anxiety and even panic attacks.

Job insecurity. For whatever reason, if you don’t feel your job is not secure and you don’t see a solution, your self-worth may begin to suffer.

Lack of recognition. You do good work but aren’t recognized for your contributions.

Lack of support. You haven’t been given clear objectives and priorities. There are no guidelines for how you should go about your work, and your boss and colleagues do not work with you collaboratively. This can create a de-motivating environment, which can lead to depression.

Brain Health and Stress Tips

If you are caring for a family member or spouse, you may also be vulnerable to the ill effects of stress. Here are some ways to help yourself think more clearly and stay on track during these stressful times.

Meditate. This can limit the stress hormone cortisol by 25 percent, according to research. Meditation also serves to focus your mind and keep you on task.

Consume brain foods. Four brain foods promote mindful productivity. They include omega-3 and vitamins B and D.

Get regular exercise. A 30-minute brisk walk after a work day or during a lunch hour can reinvigorate your mind and spirit.

Positive self-talk. Eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Don’t listen to negative thoughts. There are many positive things you can discover about yourself. Make a list of what you do well and repeat it to yourself.

Get a good night’s sleep. Your brain and emotions are at their best after seven to eight hours of restful sleep.

Take little breaks. Five minutes away from a problem can give you fresh energy and, perhaps, a new perspective.

Try abdominal breathing. Also called diaphragmatic breathing, this is where you consciously use your diaphragm to take deep breaths, which research shows can calm you in as little as five to 10 minutes.

Have a positive outlook. Look for the opportunity when addressing a problem and not just the obstacles. It works on the job and in life. A study showed that people with a family history of heart disease who had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or cardiovascular event than those with a more negative outlook.

Get outdoors. Your brain loves being outside! It boosts your energy, enhances your creativity, and restores your focus.

Engage socially. Being with other people enhances your brain’s ability to function. Maintain social connections with coworkers. Isolation is not healthy mentally or physically.

Caregiver Stress

The keys to managing caregiver stress involve reassessing your ability to cope with your many responsibilities. This will require you to focus on what you are able to provide and accept help when you have reached your limits.

You have to set realistic goals, and break large tasks into smaller ones that you can do one at a time. Make lists, establish a daily routine.

Research what caregiver resources are available among family and friends, as well as professional caregiving assistance and services.  Respite care at senior living communities can assist you when you need to get away. Join a caregiver support group, and stay connected with your friends and family.

Set aside some time and focus on your own health needs.

Your professional life shouldn’t cause lifelong harm. Take time to care for yourself by visiting Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.