Seventy percent of people say that their jobs are too stressful. And most of us spend more time at work than we do any other single place. No one wants to spend most of their day stressed. So, in honor of Stress Awareness Month, we’re sharing some tips for cutting back on stress in the workplace. Give some of these a try and maybe by the time May rolls around you’ll be feeling more relaxed.
1. Make sure you have a system that keeps you and your projects organized. Knowing exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done will keep you on track and relieve a lot of stress. Create a system that meets your needs – write a simple daily to do list, create a detailed checklist for each project, or make ample use of the task lists and reminders in your email program. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to work for you and be easy to maintain.
2. Set realistic goals for each day. Biting off more than you can chew is a sure way to feel stressed at the end of the day. No one wants to look down at 4:30 and realize their task list is only half done. When you’re setting your priorities and goals for the day stick to tasks that can realistically finish, not the things you hope you can finish. Checking everything off your list each day will leave you feeling satisfied rather than frustrated.
3. Break large projects into small, achievable tasks. Having a big project to complete can feel overwhelming. Where do you even start? Start by breaking it up. Having a bunch of small things to do feels a lot better than one enormous thing. And marking each of those small tasks done will help you feel like you’re accomplishing something so you’ll stay motivated.
4. Take breaks. Starting to feel a little frazzled? Instead of buckling down, take a short break. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Stand up from your desk and stretch. Walk down to the breakroom to get a drink. None of these things will take much time, but they will help relieve some of the tension in your body so you’ll feel more relaxed and better prepared to get to work.
5. Stop skipping lunch. We’ve all done this. You have a lot to get done so instead of wasting time you eat something at your desk while you work. It turns out that this can be counterproductive. Given no time to rest, your mind and body aren’t working at their best. You’ll be better off if you take some time to eat. You can really turn your lunch hour into a stress buster by taking a walk, reading a book, or calling your mom. All of these things have been shown to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
6. Socialize. Did you know that hanging around the proverbial water cooler can be good for you? Talking to your co-workers can help reduce stress. So take a couple of minutes to talk about last night’s game or your favorite TV show. And make sure to invite the office funny girl or guy. Laughter is one of the best stress relievers there is.
7. Stay comfortable. It’s well known that stress can cause headaches, backaches, and muscle fatigue. A bad office set up can exacerbate these effects. Relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress by organizing your office so that you’re as comfortable as possible. A really good office chair is a great foundation. If a new chair isn’t in your future, ergonomic aids such as back supports and footrests can help. Not sure if your office is set up right? Check out this great infographic.
8. Sniff out a better mood. Feeling a little overwhelmed? It turns out that your nose can help. Citrus scents like lemon, orange, and grapefruit, can lessen feelings of stress and anxiety, and lavender aids in relaxation. If you’re feeling stressed, add a desktop air freshener to your office. Try a citrus scented cleanser for your desk or floors for even more of a boost.
9. Get some sleep. Make sure to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night. Not sleeping enough will obviously leave you feeling tired, but it can also decrease motivation, make you more sensitive to stress, and impair your thinking. That’s not going to make it any easier to get things done. If you’re having trouble falling asleep make it a policy to turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone an hour before bed time. Studies have shown that the bright glow of your electronics can inhibit the release of the brain chemicals that help you fall sleep.
10. Eat well. When we’re stressed, we tend to crave foods that aren’t really the best choices: candy, chips, fast food. It might seem like eating something is better than eating nothing, but in the long run these foods are just going to leave you feeling tired. Choosing healthier meals with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables will satisfy your hunger and keep you mentally alert. For extra points, include foods which have been shown to reduce stress levels, such as sweet potatoes, almonds, dark chocolate, turkey, spinach, and avocados.