09 Sep Calm Down: How to Manage Stress at Work
Even the best of jobs can from time to time prove to be stressful. Before we know it, we can find that we’re dreading each morning, and exhausted by noon. So, how then, do we keep a balance of meeting the demands of work without succumbing to the stress that often accompanies it?
Here are five tips to reduce stress at work:
Get enough sleep. The CDC and recent polls have determined that American adults are getting less sleep than they need. While 7 to 8 hours is deal, the average American is getting only 6.8 hours of sleep.
And the stress-sleep relationship is circular – those under a good deal of stress find it difficult to fall asleep, and those who are sleep-deprived have a harder time dealing with stressful situations. To break the cycle, learn to get enough sleep.
Go to bed and rise at the same time each day, avoid alcohol and nicotine before bed, and sleep in a properly darkened room (get light-blocking curtains for the windows, if you need to).
Eat well. For most of us, the mere act of eating can reduce stress, and so-called comfort foods are particularly favored for their relaxing effect. But eating well to reduce stress means being smarter than turning to ice cream or potato chips.
Specific foods have been identified as helping you to keep your calm, including asparagus, avocados, and berries. Certainly you want to watch what you eat on the job to reduce stress at work, but the truth is, we take work and work-related stress home with us, so it is ideal if you can work these tension-busting foods into meals out of the office as well.
Be the early bird. Showing up five to ten minutes early – as regular habit, not once in a while – can significantly reduce stress at work, and elsewhere.
Those of us who are constantly arriving just on time, or a few minutes late, usually spend our commute tense and frustrated. We barrage ourselves with questions of why we didn’t plan better – Why didn’t I get up earlier? Why didn’t I check the traffic report? – and arrive our destination tormented and anxious.
Even if no one else notices our three minute late arrival, we feel self-conscious and depressed. So work to cure your habit of arriving on time, to arriving five to ten minutes early. If there are unexpected delays, you have built in time to accommodate them, and if there are none, you can spend the extra time preparing for your meeting, just checking email and messages.
Think positive. Yeah, yeah, it sounds easier than it is. The truth is, it can be difficult for us to forgive ourselves. We easily fall into a trap of an unending self-lecture – how that presentation could have been better, a smarter version of that report, better sales numbers for last quarter.
And this constant monologue brings us down and stresses us out. Remember that in every exchange with others, we are only responsible for half the equation. We need to do our best . . . and then let go.
If others criticize our work or our methods or our decisions, we have to distance ourselves from those incoming messages. Otherwise, we fall victim to the deluge of information coming at us.
Avoid disruptive interruptions. It is nearly impossible in the modern day workplace to have hours of pure work time. Emails, phone calls, unscheduled drop-by visits, last minute meetings . . . it’s practically impossible not to be disrupted throughout the day.
[bctt tweet=”Some studies show it can take as long as 25 minutes to return to a task that one was distracted from.”]
That means less productivity, more pressure to complete more tasks, and a stressful result. So how to counter this? Try to organize your day so that interruptions, while unavoidable, are not unexpected.
Check email once per hour and then shut it down. Put your phone on silent for 45 minutes at a time while you focus on one task. And close your door if you want to discourage visitors from poking their head in. Then take scheduled breaks to connect with the outside world again.
You cannot remove stress completely, but you can reduce it.
It may not be as simple as mind over matter, because stress is real and scientifically measurable (especially in our production of cortisol, a hormone that is triggered as a stress reaction), so we are not completely in control of how our body responds to tough situations.
But we can reduce the situations themselves, and we can give our body extra tools to deal with stress by being sure we have proper sleep and the right foods. We’re unlikely to encounter a stress-free job, but we can actively work towards lowering the stress we allow to enter into our lives.