It’s no secret that stress is on the rise in the modern day workplace. It’s also unlikely that the modern day workplace will become less stressful any time soon. However, who’s to say you can’t take things into your own hands and learn how to stress less and be more present in the workplace? And hey, perhaps once your colleagues notice how cool, calm and collected you are they may want to jump on the bandwagon with you.
So, let’s get into some practical and immediately usable strategies that can help you deal with stress in the workplace.
One of the best ways to deal with stress in the workplace is to prepare yourself for it before it even arises. By adding morning meditation to your routine you may be able to do just that.
What gets into your head at the beginning of the day can influence how you feel for the rest of the day. So why not take some time to get into your own head first?
Think of morning meditation like putting on your armor before you head out into the big bad world and all the potential stresses that are contained within it.
So how do you do it?
Find a quiet space and your favorite, comfortable seat. With or without a backrest is fine, whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Keep your phone on airplane mode (a habit you will learn about in the sleep section if you don’t already do it). Keep your computer closed, the tv off, and allow nothing to distract you.
Close your eyes and take a long deep breath through the nose, followed by an even longer and slower breath out through the mouth.
Either keep going until you feel you’re ready to take on the day, or simply set an alarm for 5 or 10 minutes. Taking just these 5 to 10 minutes of meditation in the morning can make a dramatic difference to your potential stress levels for the rest of the day.
Now, if you’re not quite sold on the above routine, a good way to get started is to use a guided meditation app such as Headspace.
Most work these days involves looking at a computer, phone or other electronic device for a long period of time.
This can lead to eye health issues down the line, as well as more immediate pains such as headaches and dry eyes.
Performing eye exercises can reduce the physical stress placed on your eyes, and also give yourself an opportunity to take a break from work and become more aware of your immediate surroundings.
Stand up, walk away from your desk, leaving all your devices behind, and go to the nearest window.
Look at an object close to you for 10 seconds and then look at an object as far away as possible for 10 seconds. You should be able to feel your eyes adjusting as you do this.
Do the same again but this time with one eye closed, change to the other eye and then do the exercise one more time using both eyes again.
If there are moving objects like people, cars or animals, follow them for a few seconds too as this can also help to exercise and relax your eyes.
How are you breathing right now? Are you taking short, shallow breaths that come mostly from the chest? Or long and slow breaths from deep down below the stomach?
When you are stressed you tend to breathe more like the former and less like the latter. However, if you are stressed and you take a moment to switch your breathing style to the deeper, more relaxed type, you’re likely to find that your mental state soon follows.
Now, if you’d like a more specific breathing exercise designed to reduce stress, try this:
Sit up straight
Put your phone on airplane mode and bring up the stopwatch function.
Repeat the following routine 6 times:
Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds Hold your breath for 7 seconds Breathe out slowly through the mouth for an entire 8 seconds
This is a very popular breathing exercise designed to help you achieve a state of calm and bring you back into the present moment. If you would like to learn some more breathing exercises, you can find the above mentioned exercise along with 2 others in the wonderful new Oak app.
So take some time at regular intervals throughout the day to check in with your breathing and if need be, make the change from stressed breathing to relaxed breathing.
This is perhaps the most important thing to take care of outside of the workplace in order to help you reduce stress inside the workplace.
There are 2 factors to consider when looking at sleep: Quantity and quality.
In regards to quantity, we all know that the general recommendation is to get around 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re not currently getting that much, try just one night of 8 hours and I’m confident you’ll be sold on the benefits of a full night’s rest.
And, if you’re still not sold on getting a full 8 hours of sleep per night you may want to consider this:
Arianna Huffington (Founder of Huffington Post and Thrive as well as a contributor to this blog) and Jeff Bezos (Founder and CEO of Amazon.com) both stand by their commitment to getting a full 8 hours of sleep per night. These people are incredibly successful and insanely busy, yet, they know that a full 8 hours can make all the difference when it comes to making effective decisions and doing good work. If they can find time for 8 hours of sleep, surely you can too.
In regards to quality, there are a few points to check off to make sure you’re getting a high quality and restful night’s sleep:
Don’t eat within 4 hours of going to sleep (Diabetic and athletic requirements are perhaps 2 of the only exceptions to this rule).
Sleep in a room that is as dark as possible, this means dark curtains and no light from electronic devices, nothing whatsoever, pitch black like a cave.
Speaking of electronic devices, if you use your phone as an alarm, put it on airplane mode so that it isn’t emitting any signal that could potentially reduce your sleep quality, and to get rid of all of the distracting notifications.
Try to sleep at a similar time each night, this will help you to develop a strong “circadian rhythm” which over time can make your sleep more restful and effective.
Reduce your exposure to electronic devices and bright light for at least 2 hours before bed, try reading a paper book rather than a computer screen.
What you eat at home affects your performance at work.
We know that good nutrition is important for looking good and feeling good physically, but what about mentally?
More and more studies are emerging showing a strong link between gut health and mental health.
This means that people with unhealthy diets are more likely to suffer from mental issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
And what is the main factor that influences your gut health? Nutrition.
Some people are blessed to have healthy food options located close to or within their workplace. However, for most people this is simply not the case and you usually end up with a choice of bad or worse when it comes to food.
So, rather than rolling the dice and eating whatever is most readily available near you, try being prepared instead.
The words “food preparation” may make you think about people who spend half of their Sunday cooking and packing food which then sits in their freezer for the next 5 days. Rather than taking this highly time consuming and questionably healthy step, try this instead:
Each night when you cook dinner, cook another portion as if you are making dinner for another person. Instead of eating 2 dinners, simply put the second portion into a reusable container and stick it in the fridge.
Take it with you to work in the morning and voila, a healthy lunch.
I hope you have enjoyed the above 5 ways to deal with stress in the workplace.
If you would like to implement the 5 ways to deal with stress in the workplace into your routine but are unsure where to start, I suggest trying the following:
Pick just 1 of the above steps and try it out this week. Then, once you’ve conquered one, try adding a second. And so on and so forth until you’ve nailed all 5.
Implementing 1 of these is enough to create a noticeable difference in your daily stress levels but taking on all 5 could result in a dramatic difference to your day. If trying to do everything at once can be stressful and well, that kinda defeats the purpose right?
So pick one, your favourite one, the one that sounds easiest for you to implement right away and go for it.