Ways To Eliminate Stress At Work
The average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate. Modern workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. And four out of 10 people working at large companies are experiencing a major corporate restructuring, and therefore facing uncertainly about their futures. This may be why more than 40% of adults say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful events of the day.
“People are asking me for answers,” says Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of just released Success Under Stress. “Everyone feels overwhelmed and overly busy.”
Is there a way to maintain steady focus throughout the day? Is it possible to do everything that needs to get done and still have energy left over after work? How do you keep cool under so many demands? Informed by 10 years of Harvard research and field-tested by more than 6,000 clients and trainees, Melnick offers the following strategies to take your work stress down a peg, before it takes over your life.
Act Rather Than React
Take A Deep Breath
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are coming out of a tense meeting and need to clear your head, a few minutes of deep breathing will restore balance, says Melnick. Simply inhale for five seconds, hold and exhale in equal counts through the nose. “It’s like getting the calm and focus of a 90-minute yoga class in three minutes or less at your desk,” she says.
Schedule Your Day For Energy And Focus
Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is linked with your ability to deal with frustration. Emotional intelligence is your capacity to notice and evaluate emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to regulate the way you express your feelings.
You can improve your emotional intelligence by:
- Regulating yourself during moments of frustration and waiting for an appropriate moment to express yourself
- Practicing empathy for others, especially people who tend to frustrate you
- Remembering that all emotions are fleeting, including frustration
- Noticing your feelings so you can react appropriately
Quick Ways To Reduce Stress
Taking care of your long-term mental and physical health is an important part of stress management. However, there isnt always time to take a nap, hike a fourteener, or read a novel. Thus, here are 25 ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less. From eating chocolate to meditating, there is a quick stress-relieving tactic for everyone.
1. BreatheSlow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique is supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body.
2. Listen to Music No matter what the song, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If youre in a public place, just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
3. Take a Quick Walk When youre feeling overwhelmed or having trouble concentrating, go for a quick stroll around the block. Youll get the benefits of alone time, physical activity, and a few minutes to gather your thoughts.
4. Find the Sun If its a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy people.
8. Rub Your Feet Over a Golf Ball You can get an impromptu, relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.
12. Be Alone
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Scale Back On Drive Time
When choosing a new doctor, dentist, hairdresser, whatever, find one as close to home as possible. Bonus: with gas so expensive, think of the savings! The same holds true when finding activities for any family membersstay local. Sure the ideal preschool, soccer club or SAT study group may be a longer commute, but add up all the drive time in advance and ask if its really worth it before committing to rush-hour jams and early alarm clocks.
Still determined? Set up carpools and recognize you dont have to be at every activity. Sure its fun to participate, but your child will not turn into a serial killer if you miss a few games or performances.
Mindfulness And Mantra Meditation
Mindfulness is an ancient form of meditation that promotes awareness of whats happening in the moment.
It encourages you to focus on your body, your thoughts, and whats going on around you.
Mantra meditation, on the other hand, is the opposite of mindfulness. In this practice, you place all your attention on a single target, like a mantra, a candle flame, or a phrase.
In both types of meditations, whenever your mind wanders — and it will Smith says — you simply re-focus.
It’s a brain skill, he says. In that in the first 2 weeks you won’t be able to do it very well. Your mind will constantly chatter and distract, and that’s normal, that happens.
But as you practice, youll get better at it.
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Ways For Better Coping With Stress
When trying to manage stress, Blonna said that many people mistakenly look for a Band-Aid approach. They look for one approach to work with all stressors in all situations at all times. But realistically you cant rely on one technique. For instance, diaphragmatic breathing is an effective stress reliever but you might not want to use it in a certain situation because youre feeling self-conscious and dont want to bring attention to yourself, he said. Similarly, while Blonna is a big believer in meditation, he said it doesnt work if youre stuck in traffic, since its dangerous to close your eyes.
Instead, What we need is a toolbox thats full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment, he said. Stress is complex, so your approach to coping with it has to be broad-based and adaptive, he said. Years ago, he developed five levels of strategies for coping with stress or the five Rs of coping model. Each level has multiple strategies.
As a health educator, Blonna knows the importance of a healthy lifestyle, especially for stress management. He said that reorganizing your health and develop hearty habits provides more energy and builds coping resilience. For instance, exercise not only improves physical functioning but it also helps your brain work better and process information better, he said.
Last medically reviewed on May 17, 2016
Tip : Make Quick Stress Relief A Habit
Its not easy to remember to use your senses in the middle of a minior or not so minocrisis. At first, it will feel easier to just give into pressure and tense up. But with time, calling upon your senses will become second nature. Think of the process like learning to drive or play golf. You dont master the skill in one lesson you have to practice until it becomes second nature. Eventually youll feel like youre forgetting something if you dont tune into your body during challenging times. Heres how to make it habit:
Start small. Instead of testing your quick stress relief tools on a source of major stress, start with a predictable low-level source of stress, like cooking dinner at the end of a long day or sitting down to pay bills.
Identify and target. Think of just one low-level stressor that you know will occur several times a week, such as commuting. Vow to target that stressor with quick stress relief every time. After a few weeks, target a second stressor and so on.
Test-drive sensory input. If you are practicing quick stress relief on your commute to work, bring a scented handkerchief with you one day, try music another day, and try a movement the next day. Keep experimenting until you find a clear winner.
Have fun with the process. If something doesnt work, dont force it. Move on until you find what works best for you. It should be pleasurable and noticeably calming.
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Draw On Social Support
It’s also helpful to have the release and support of sharing your troubles with close friends, family, or loved ones. While its not healthy to constantly complain, talking to a trusted friend about your frustrations now and then can help you process whats going on and enable you to brainstorm solutions.
If you dont have someone youre comfortable sharing your situation with, seeing a therapist or starting a regular journaling practice have benefits as well.
Be Clear On Requirements
A factor known to contribute to job burnout is unclear requirements for employees. If you dont know exactly what is expected of you, or if the requirements for your role keep changing with little notice, you might become extremely stressed.
If you find yourself never knowing if what you are doing is enough, it may help to have a talk with your supervisor. You can take the time to go over expectations and discuss strategies for meeting them. This can relieve stress for both of you!
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Listen To Soothing Music
Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body.
Slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones.
Some types of classical, Celtic, Native American and Indian music can be particularly soothing, but simply listening to the music you enjoy is effective too .
Nature sounds can also be very calming. This is why theyre often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
How To Know When You Need To Reduce Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can impact your mood, body, and behavior. While some of these symptoms may seem minor, when left unchecked, they can lead to larger and more severe problems. The following symptoms can be signs that youre struggling with too much stress.
Some of the physical signs of stress include:
Some of the ways that stress can impact your mood include:
- Increased anxiety
Stress can also cause behavioral challenges such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Substance use
- Changes in eating habits
The symptoms above can be a lot to handle on their own, but they can lead to more serious problems. For example, stress has been connected with physical health problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. Higher levels of stress can also lead to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. These are just a few of the reasons why its important to learn how to relieve stress.
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Breathing And Relaxation Exercises
Many people find exercises that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation to be helpful in relieving stress. The playlist below will help you to understand how stress works and start feeling better. These exercises can be done anywhere and are designed to help you feel more relaxed in general, as well as helping you feel calmer if you are becoming stressed.
This playlist is free to download, and you can also stream it using the Soundcloud website or app. You can download and listen to individual tracks if there are particular exercises that work best for you. If you’re listening to it for the first time, it’s best to start from the beginning.
To access a BSL version of this playlist, .
Find out more by checking out these 10 stress busters.
Be More Realistic About Your Capabilities
It is helpful to remember that most people underestimate how long it will take to do something, and overestimate how much they can do. This means that they end up taking on too much, and then failing to deliver.
Develop the simple habit of doubling your time estimates for any task.
You are then far more likely to under-promise and over-deliver. This will make everyoneincluding youmuch happier than the other way round .
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The Power Of Presence
This TED Talk by Matt Killingsworth summarises his own research in which it became glaringly clear just how powerful presence is for happiness. He studied large numbers of people across many countries and cultures and found that regardless of what you are doing, or what you are thinking about, we are happiest when we are present instead of mind-wandering. The other staggering finding in this research was that participants spent 47% of their time mind wandering, in other words not present.
Tip : Recognize When Youre Stressed
It might seem obvious that youd know when youre stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that weve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when were calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when youre stressed by listening to your body. When youre tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When youre happy, you laugh easily. And when youre stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your bodys clues.
Observe your muscles and insides. Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?
Observe your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you forget to breathe.
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Recognising Your Stress Triggers
If you’re not sure what’s causing your stress, keep a diary and make a note of stressful episodes for two-to-four weeks. Then review it to spot the triggers.
Things you might want to write down include:
- the date, time and place of a stressful episode
- what you were doing
- a stress rating
You can use the diary to:
- work out what triggers your stress
- work out how you operate under pressure
- develop better coping mechanisms
Doctors sometimes recommend keeping a stress diary to help them diagnose stress.
Chill Out Away From Work
When you’re away from the office, don’t bring the office with you. It’s become a normal institution to check your work email regularly, even when at home, but doing so is bad for your mental health. Unless you’re desperately awaiting news or there’s a rare project that needs wrapped up, do your best to keep work at work, and have some fun when you come home.
These methods don’t require major commitments, educational courses, or even a lot of time to complete. In fact, most of them can be accomplished in just a few minutes every day. Make the commitment of adopting just a few of these strategies–I’m not even suggesting all of them–and I can almost guarantee you’ll get more work done in less time. You might even feel happier doing it. For more tips on how to conquer stress and become more productive, grab my eBook, Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Career Hacks for Modern Professionals.
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Stress Management That Works: How To Be Less Stressed
Medically Reviewed By: Lori Jones, LMHC
Stress is just a part of life, right? While its true that everyone experiences stress from time to time, theres a difference between managing stressful situations that are out of your control in a healthy way, and feeling overwhelmed by stress on a regular basis. Learning how to be less stressed can go a long way in improving your mental and physical health.
Build In Time To Stop & Relax
I often hear my clients say Come on, how on earth will I be able to make time for myself when I have so much to do? and I always reply, if you dont look after yourself you wont have the reserves to take care of all the other people in your life you take care of. When our reserves are low were cranky, overly sensitive and generally not as happy as we want to be. So please take some time each day, even if it only 10 minutes, to relax.
- Have a warm bath as this will help your body reach a temperature thats ideal for rest.
- Writing to do lists for the next day can organize your thoughts and clear your mind of any worrying thoughts that pop in to your head
- Relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches, help to relax the muscles. Dont exercise vigorously though, as it will have the opposite effect.
- Relaxation CDs can help as they use a hypnotic voice to guide you through muscle relaxation and soothing music and sound effects to relax your brain.
- Watching TV or any computer or phone screen keeps the brain engaged and active so it is harder to fall asleep. It is better to read a book or listen to the radio as that relaxes the mind by distracting it from the present worries.
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What Happens When We Dont Manage Stress Effectively
In small doses, stress can actually be useful as it helps you to stay focused, alert and increases energy. But when stress becomes chronic though, it can damage your health, mood and relationships. Basically, your overall quality of life!
Stress is sneaky! It can easily creep up on you so that being frazzled and overwhelmed starts to feel normal. You may not even recognize how much it is affecting you so it is really important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and then take steps to stop feeling so overwhelmed.