In our fast-paced world, being stressed out is practically considered a symbol of accomplishment and importance. How many times have you overheard people comparing their workloads and other life activities, one-upping each other in exclaiming just how brutal their days are? You’re probably guilty of it too to some extent. Sometimes it just feels good to vent about how stressed out we are.
But in a perfect world, being stressed out would be non-existent, or at least minimal. What if we could keep our jobs, save ourselves (and our company) some money, improve the workplace environment — and minimize the daily stress we feel? It’s possible. With just a few small changes in our daily routines, learning to manage stress in a healthy way is very feasible. Feeling at ease at your 9-to-5 can happen — here’s how:
Realign Your Belief In Stress
As a child, remember when you used to believe in the tooth fairy? When the reality did sink it (if it ever did) that your parents were the ones leaving you a shiny coin under your pillow, it was a moment where you couldn’t suspend disbelief anymore. However, before that, you really did feel it was real and true that something fantastical could exist.
While no one is asking you to look to the supernatural as an adult (especially at work), the same concept of belief plays a role in how stressed you can feel on the job. One study shows that it’s actually the belief that stress is a killer that actually does the harm, rather than the stress itself.
I know, I know. It does sound easier said than done, but affirming to yourself that the tough deadline, the challenge on your new project or maybe even the traffic jam before you get the office is just stressful, but not life-ending, can help give you perspective. Instead of making panic, try train yourself to believe that it’s going to be just fine. It won’t work all the time, but the focused attempt to do this can minimize stress and help you focus on what’s really important.
Another great way to manage stress is to spot the things that trigger it; this means the pain points around you that cause stress to happen. Some Include:
The Helpful-Stressful Cycle
Anybody who has a smartphone probably has dealt with this one. It’s when you can monitor your email, work projects and social media every two seconds thanks to the very helpful (and not-so-helpful) push notifications your phones can provide. While it’s a well-meaning feature, it actually reduces your ability to concentrate and adds stress in small ways to your day by forcing you to feel like you need to stay constantly connected, or look up every time you hear or see your phone vibrate. To diminish this, remove notification settings for the more distracting, less important apps on your phone.
Poor Sleep Quality
It’s one thing to not get enough sleep. It’s another thing to have poor sleep quality. A lot of this stems from people being on their phones and laptops right up until the second before they hit the hay. Sleeping well doesn’t just involve sleeping, it also involves a bedtime routine that helps your body prepare itself for a good night. This means winding down in the right way so you ensure your sleep isn’t diminished or compromised.
Do yourself a favor and cut out screen time an hour before bed. It’ll go a long way in improving your rest! Instead, take a bath, read a book – a physical one – or try some relaxing yoga poses. Also, in the same way, that comfortable office workstations help improve your mood and your productivity at work, a good mattress and proper bedding can ensure you don’t have a sore back when you wake up in the morning. Also, the right bedding in a natural fiber, or a right duvet, will ensure you’re not sweating or freezing to death in the middle of the night.
Low to No Activity
Exercise is good for you; that’s a fact that doctors have said time and time again — but it bares repeating in how it can help you manage your stress. However, it can be annoying to do a proper workout when we’re pooped from a long day. To combat this, try small bursts of fitness — even in the comfort of your own home on a carpeted area. Or, for example, do 10 squats while you’re cooking. At the office, park your car a little farther from the door to get in cardio. Do some push-ups or sit-ups right before bed just to exert yourself before you lie down to sleep. Even with these tiny little changes, if you do them on a regular basis, your mind and body will begin to crave more of that adrenaline that comes with a quick burst of exercise.
Tips from a Fourth Grader
If you notice yourself panicking about being stressed, the next thing you can do once you’ve acknowledged your triggers is to take that energy and do something positive or neutral with it.
You can always meditate, especially if you’re exhausted from your stress than anything, but for those moments when you’re ready to start bouncing off walls of your cubicle, take some tips from a fourth grader.
- Chew Gum: The teachers hated this one in school, but it’s been shown to improve concentration and memory and help reduce anxiety. It doesn’t even have to be boring spearmint. If you haven’t reached for bubble gum before the dawn of the Internet, now’s the time to do it!
- Listen to Music: The kind you actually enjoy, whether it’s head-banging metal or a throwback Eminem track. Try to pick something lively so you don’t pass out. If you can’t listen to music and work at the same time, give yourself a five-minute break. When the track’s over, you can get back to the hustle and grind.
- Play Basketball: With all those ancient memos and notes on your desk you should have recycled last year, take a moment to use your cubicle trash bin for a short game of hoops. Your inner fourth grader will be super stoked by the break you’re giving your brain, and you’ll be ready to tackle a new task, soon after.
- Eat Fruit: You maybe couldn’t munch on snacks in class as a kid, but as an adult, snack away! As for picking a banana or an orange, both these fruits offer the satisfaction of getting to peel something, which allows you to concentrate on a single small, tactile task. Oranges also smell revitalizing, and bananas have lots of potassium which helps regulate blood pressure. They’re both healthy and up your blood sugar with natural sugars to keep working.
- Stretch It Out: Stand up, stretch your back, wiggle your toes and fingers. Nobody’s going to punish you for standing up without raising your hand to ask for permission! If it’s in the office budget, consider switching to an adjustable height workstation. That way, you can shift from sitting to standing whenever you feel like it — and give that inner child in you some options in how you work. If you’re lucky enough to have an awesome ergonomic office chair, make it up your nine-year-old self by leaning back. This time, there won’t be fear the plastic chair of your youth will tip over. Less embarrassment, but all of the fun!
- Doodle: Take a five-minute break to doodle. Don’t stress yourself out by worrying that it’s going to be an ugly picture. Draw circles, rings, geometric shapes — anything just to soothe your brain. It’s a great way to reset so you can keep working until the end of the day.
These are just some simple solutions to keep yourself and your stress in check. It won’t be foolproof, but they are solutions to keep you mindful of your stress so you can dropkick it the next time you feel it knocking you and your productivity to the floor. So the next time a major deadline hits, or your boss springs you with some unexpected task, don’t fret. Try one of these tips on for size and notice a small or major change in how your body processes anxiety. What will you try first?