Workplace stress is serious business.
This chronic toxicity has the ability to ruin our lives, despite our best efforts to keep it confined to our work desks. So how exactly do we regain our sanity and take back our lives?
In order to effectively manage work stress, we need to look at three other areas of our lives: our physical health, our mental health, and our sense of perspective. By learning how to protect what work stress harms the most, we can keep ourselves strong and sane.
Here are some of the best methods for managing work stress, many of which may be just a few baby steps away.
DE-STRESS your body
Think about it — we tend to spend far more time doing things that trigger stress responses in our bodies than we do on things that relax us, right? This imbalance has serious consequences for our physical health.
Too much stress can accelerate the aging process, weaken our immune systems, and leave us feeling tired and depressed.
Since stress is a physical and hormonal chain reaction, focus on interrupting this response with healthy habits. The foundation for managing stress and feeling energized generally lies in what we eat, how (and how often) we move, and how much we sleep.
This one also isn’t news. Physical activity releases feel-good, stress-relieving chemicals in the body, and luckily, you don’t have to power through an hour-long boot camp class to reap these benefits.
Virtually any kind of activity that gets your heart pumping for a few minutes can help. So, when stress levels begin to rise, get up and get moving. Stretch, run in place, dance, or just walk around the office to get your blood and endorphins flowing.
You can even boost the physical benefits of moving by taking several deep, cleansing breaths, which help trigger your relaxation response.
Eat whole foods
You’ve probably been warned that processed foods are bad for you. How bad, you ask? Well, research has linked filling up on processed foods to obesity, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer.
Luckily, eating whole foods may help protect against these health issues. Start munching on fruits, vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, and nuts to help combat excess stress.
Basically, think of the food you eat as the fuel your body uses to tackle whatever challenges you face at work. The higher the quality of your nutrition, the better your defenses will be.
Get enough sleep
Unsurprisingly, work stressors are magnified when we’re sleep-deprived and foggy-brained. Does anything ever get better when we’re feeling tired and cranky? Nope.
So, do your best to aim for 8 hours of sleep each night, and try to keep your sleep window as consistent as possible. Sleeping well can help us solve problems with clearer minds (and less frustration) and even boost our intelligence.
We can take the sting out of negative events in our days by focusing on what’s great in our lives. There are countless ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude, but here’s an easy place to start.
Every evening, take a moment to write down three things that made you feel grateful that day. They can be as simple as seeing a gorgeous sunrise or being complimented on your new pair of shoes. No need to overthink it — just focus on the good.
A consistent meditation practice — even if it’s only five minutes a day — can also help us control the thoughts that can trigger stress.
The next time you feel stressed because your boss added another task to your overflowing to-do list, stop and take a few deep breaths. Shake out your body, sit down, and breathe intentionally for 5 minutes before facing your work.
Learn to say “no”
Being overbooked, overworked, and overcommitted leads to stress. We’ve all experienced the negative impacts of “too much,” largely due to feeling obligated to say “yes” to everything.
However, the greatest stress reliever of all is exercising your right to say “no.” It feels unnatural (and even rude) at first, but it’s an important skill to learn.
Be polite but firm. In explaining to others that you’re overcommitted. You can even tell your boss “no” — just explain that one more project will compromise the quality of your work. It all comes down to negotiating priorities.
Tune out and take care of your life
Sometimes, the first step to mitigating work stress is reminding yourself that your frazzled feelings are entirely valid rather than expecting your body to handle impossible workloads flawlessly all the time.
Many of us act like we’re invincible.
Cut yourself a little slack and remember that you’re more than the work you do. And rather than slogging through extra hours at the office each night, spend your “off” time tuning into the other parts of life that make you feel like you.
Schedule quality social time
When we’re working crazy hours, we can find ourselves detached from our relationships — friends, family members, partners, and otherwise.
So, each week, make an effort to schedule some quality time with a loved one just to be together, hang out, and laugh. Disengage from work for a bit and refocus on people who matter beyond the scope of your job.
Take a vacation
Take back what belongs to you and put up that “Out of Office” automatic email reply. Anxieties about missing work or annoying your boss with your absence will fade away within minutes of unplugging on your vacation.
You are the only person who can advocate for your needs. Will a brief break from the office leave you feeling refreshed and even excited to get back to work? Then by all means, go for it.
Creating space for healthy habits, quality relationships, purpose-driven activities, and even just quiet time for contemplation can make a world of difference.
We all deserve to live happy, healthy lives and it’s never too late to start making simple changes that will allow you to swap some of that stress for a nice dose of inner peace.