WORK-LIFE BALANCE / APR. 03, 2014
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How to Lower Your Stress at Work

Stress is so ubiquitous it has its own Awareness Month. In 2014, it is the month of April. In fact, in the United States, we not only have dedicated an entire month to stress awareness for the past 22 years, we also dedicate one day of that month as Stress Awareness Day.

Fittingly, for 2014, that day is April 16, the day after the tax filing deadline. It is a good choice, you can stress over your tax bill being too high because you earned too much and withheld too little. Or you can stress because you did not earn enough. Yep, the day after tax day is perfect for Stress Awareness Day.

Stress at work is usually a result of doing too much work and not paying enough attention to family life. Other common reasons that cause stress at work include:

  • Beastly boss
  • Deadly deadlines
  • Conflicts with co-workers
  • Pressure to perform
  • Job-loss jitters
  • Many more

While living completely stress-free is not possible, the following are some tips on how to lower stress associated with your job.

Breathe Stress Away

Many people suggest that taking a breath calms you down. While proper breathing helps relieve stress, it is best to take deep breaths throughout the day – not only can proper breathing relieve stress, it can also prevent it from becoming severe. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. When you breathe in with your nostrils, stimulation of your pre-frontal brain cortex occurs. This triggers the release of stress fighting hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.

Complete One Task at a Time

Dealing with several important tasks at the same time guarantees finishing none satisfactorily and your stress level will go up. Take your next task and give yourself over to it. If you let go of other things that you want to do, you lose the feeling that you must rush through it. Put other tasks aside. When you work on one thing at a time, you cut your stress level and your performance improves.

Do Not Participate in Water Cooler Gossip

Every office is a gossip factory. If you talk badly of your co-workers, cut it out. It only breeds negativity among everyone. It is also a complete waste of your time and is a known cause of stress.

Stand When You Use the Phone

When you arrive at the office and flick on your computer here is what happens:

  • Your breathing rate goes up by 30 percent
  • Your rate of blinking goes down
  • Your arm and leg muscles tighten

These are signs of stress. But changing your body position every 30 minutes or so, by doing something as simple as standing when you are on the phone, improves your blood flow and eases muscle strain. This counters stress.

Many workers envy folks who work at home, not realizing that they face dealing with stress too. The stress these people face stems from other reasons.

Since most people, including those who work at home, do not associate their home as a workplace, but more as a refuge or a place to relax, getting into work mode is difficult. Not wanting to work but knowing you must causes stress. Add to the mix the kids distracting you, the typical brainless tasks you do (like laundry) and constant interruptions from family and friends, who do not see calls or visits as time sinks in your workday (you are home, not really working), and you have the recipe for tons of stress. The following are some tips especially for those who work at home.

Get Up Earlier

Early morning is generally a quiet time in homes, and by getting up sooner, you gain valuable productive time. If your work is flexible enough to do from home, it is likely also flexible enough for you to make your own schedule. That extra forty-five minutes feels like two hours when everyone else is still asleep.

Give Yourself a Work Space

You may not have a home office, but you need a spot that is quiet and as office-like as you can make it. Gathering your work stuff and moving around makes it feel as if you are not at work. This can cause you to feel disjointed, distracted, and without motivation. When you have a single place to do your work you displace those thoughts and find it easier to get things done.

Do you suffer from a lot of stress at work? What methods if any do you use to counteract it? Your thoughts and comments below please…

Photo: Public Domain, Courtesy of United States Department of Health

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