Words: Cassandra Stern
Photos: Rapeepat Pornsipak, fizkes
You’ve finally made it through another tough day on the jobsite, and it has taken its toll. Your knees and back are aching, or a headache is coming on, and you can’t wait to get home, kick back, and decompress. However, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who head home and worry about the next day at work, you’re far from alone.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 94% of American workers report experiencing stress at their workplace in 2019. Of those, 54% of workers report that stress from work affects their life at home. Not trying to stress you out, but chronic stress, and the many illnesses linked to it, is a global public health crisis.
Extreme or excessive stress contributed to everything from heart disease, anxiety, and depression to obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal issues. Masonry work requires long hours of repetitive movements, demands constant precision and focus, and can be therefore very mentally and physically taxing. Over time, rigorous work coupled with high expectations and tight project deadlines, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have left a lot of masons feeling incredibly stressed both at work and at home.
Thankfully, many techniques and activities can help you healthily process your stress, leaving you relaxed and better prepared to face the next day ahead. In this article, we will explore a few suggestions for de-stressing after a long day on the jobsite, and look into a few clever ways to stay cool at work and home.
Doctors seem to recommend exercise for everything these days, but it’s highly recommended because it’s extremely effective. Countless studies have shown that 30 minutes of exercise 2-5 days a week can provide benefits ranging from improved sleep and mood to an overall healthier body. While some may dread exercise, it provides endorphins that naturally improve your mental wellbeing. As you build up your muscles, you’ll also find the physical labor of masonry work will be less demanding the stronger you get. Try out something new, or dust off an old favorite like one of these:
Everyone from young children to NFL players and even seniors has tried yoga once, and for good reason. In a recent study conducted in Sweden, a majority of the 90 participants saw improvement in their moderate to severe symptoms of stress and anxiety in just sixteen weeks of regular practice. While this study is small, it is a great example of the healing potential of yoga.
For those unfamiliar, Yoga is “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will so that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.” When it comes to practicing yoga is “a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being.”
The benefits of a regular yoga practice include improved circulation and flexibility, decreased stress and anxiety, and better sleep, all of which are incredibly helpful after a long day laying brick. The improved flexibility is a particularly important benefit for masons as it can increase productivity significantly while protecting muscles and joints from overwork. Over time, misused muscles can lead to chronic back pain, knee pain, and other issues. Regular yoga practice benefits the body as well as the mind by introducing meditation practices as well, which we covered in a previous article.
A cardiovascular activity like walking, running, jogging, and even hiking may seem intimidating or even overwhelming after a hard day of work but the benefits greatly outweigh any trepidation. Walking, for example, is a low-impact exercise that can be done by virtually anyone. Even for short distances, walking outdoors will elevate your heart rate, can boost your mood, and ease anxiety. Jogging and running, like walking, are free to participate in, can be done alone or in a group, and can greatly improve both physical and mental health.
Hiking and trail running, conversely, are a little more challenging but incredibly rewarding. These activities can benefit dexterity and balance and are an excellent way to experience nature. After a difficult day working with buildings, getting away from it all on a trail run or hike can be a mood-boosting activity for the entire family or a private way to work off some stress from the day.
Exercise in general is well-known to help fight symptoms of not just stress but also anxiety, depression, anger, and even grief. One great way to find an exercise you’ll enjoy and commit to is to choose something you like. It sounds simple but is the best way to find an activity that brings you the most benefits.
Everything from swimming and mountain biking to archery, ax throwing, and even cliff jumping combine the passion for an activity with the additional positive benefits on mental and physical health. Even if masonry is your true passion in life, there’s always another interest you can enjoy that gets your heart pumping.
Hobbies do not have to require physical activity, however. Everything from quiet activities like reading and writing to more creative pursuits like painting and sculpture can be excellent outlets for stress- just like exercise! For example, if you’ve found you enjoy the mathematical aspect of masonry work, consider a number puzzle like Sudoku to help you wind down with your day!
No matter what, you can take your interests and work them positively into your daily routine, and the sooner you do, the better and more relaxed you’ll feel! If you’re interested in trying out some stress-relieving techniques, check out the tips below:
- Play with a pet. Studies have shown that petting a pet cat or taking the dog for a walk can be a great stress reliever!
- Take a deep breath. Whenever you feel stressed, take a step away and remember to breathe. Sometimes we unconsciously hold our breath in stressful situations, inadvertently making ourselves even more anxious.
- Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine increases your heart rate, making you even more stressed without even realizing it. Cutting back on coffee and replacing it with decaf or tea is a great way to help keep calm throughout the day.
- Listen to music. Music has a great effect on mood, heart rate, and emotions. After a stressful day, putting on soothing music can help you relax and unwind.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. These only exacerbate issues with stress, anxiety, and depression. While it can be tempting to reach for a cold one at the end of the day, more long-term solutions like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough restful sleep to have a greater impact.
Stress is all around us, and it’s easy for a tough day to leave you feeling beaten down. When it comes to stress, the best way to beat it is to get in front of it. By taking simple steps to care for your overall mental and physical well-being, you’ll soon find you have more energy, feel more focused, and are subsequently more productive on the jobsite. Don’t take your health for granted- invest in it while you can!