25 hacks to reduce stress in the workplace
Stress is an inevitable part of any job—or is it?
Yes, there’s the stress of barely making a dent in your to-do list (you’re not alone, by the way). Add to that the stress you bring to work—everything from a bad night’s sleep to financial woes or relationship problems at home—and you’ve got a hot mess of stress.
But you know what? Reducing stress in the workplace is possible. And it’s actually easier than you might think. Try these 25 hacks for getting through your workday with less stress.
- Tackle the worst first. Always start your day by getting the hardest or most dreaded task done first. It will set the tone for the rest of your day.
- Slow down. It’s hard to maintain your energy and focus when you’re in race mode. Take a cue from the tortoise and pace yourself. You’ll make fewer mistakes.
- Schedule buffer time. Showing up late for a meeting or missing a deadline is stress you can avoid. Things often take longer than we anticipate. Schedule extra time between meetings, projects and tasks to allow for unexpected delays.
- Make a ta-da list. Instead of focusing on your still-to-do list, look at what you’ve accomplished. Start a daily ta-da list. (This will also be useful at your next review.)
Show up as your best self
- Eat well. Good nutrition provides your body with energy stores to draw upon during stressful times. Eating well also makes you feel more in control and better about yourself.
- Exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise, regular exercise is one of the ultimate stress-beaters thanks to the release of feel-good endorphins it triggers.
- Get plenty of sleep. Research suggests that sleep deprivation boosts levels of stress-related hormones, like adrenaline, which in turn increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.
- Try compassion. Recognize that people are generally doing the best they can at any given time. Getting angry or upset doesn’t help you or them. Maybe they are lacking a key piece of information or skill that can be taught.
- Take a problem out to lunch. Once a month, take your number one “human problem” out to breakfast or lunch. You might find that you have more in common than you think. Even if you don’t, their perspective may help you understand them better.
- Shield yourself with a mantra. Avoid taking on others’ stress with a mantra that you can repeat to yourself as often as needed. Example: “It’s not about me.”
- Count to 10. If your normal reaction is to blow a fuse under stress, take a deep breath and exhale to the count of ten before responding.
Try a new mindset
- Find the humor. Take a step back. Practice being a more objective observer. Imagine you are a comedian doing a skit about your situation or predicament.
- Create imaginary allies. In Live the Life You Love, Barbara Sher suggests creating an imaginary spirit ally or team of allies: for example, a person in history, someone from your childhood, or a fictional character. Imagine what advice they would give if you asked for their support.
- Meditate. Close your eyes and visualize a rope with many knots being lowered slowly into a pool of water. As the knots disappear one by one, repeat the phrase “Relax… let go.”
Eat, drink and eliminate stress
- Eat an orange. Vitamin C has been proven to return levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) back to normal more quickly after completing a stressful task.
- Munch on raw vegetables. Crunching on celery or carrot sticks can relieve jaw tension and alleviate stress.
- Have a cuppa. In a study of people who drank four cups of tea daily for six weeks, tea drinkers felt calmer and displayed lower levels of cortisol in stressful situations than those who drank other beverages.
- Drink more water. Being even slightly dehydrated makes it difficult to concentrate and can cause headaches that add unnecessary stress.
- Clear the clutter. Take five minutes to clean your desk. File papers or put them in a to-file box for later. Transfer notes jotted on scraps of paper to your to-do list or calendar.
- Create a daily hot list. At the end of each workday, make a list of what you need to do tomorrow. Then highlight and number the top three priorities.
- Make dates with yourself. Block out time on your calendar to work on specific projects or tasks, including time to respond to emails and work on recurring events such as weekly or monthly reports.
Get some R & R
- Get out of the office. On your break, go out to eat, take a walk, run errands, go to the gym or spend 10 minutes people-watching on a park bench.
- Take a vacation. Take ALL of your vacation days—you’ve earned them and you need them to recharge your batteries. If your budget won’t allow for a getaway, plan a staycation.
- Unplug. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, encourages readers to control the workload in their pocket. Disconnect from work after hours by letting work calls go to voicemail and leaving emails in your inbox unread.
- Get a life. You know what they say about “all work and no play.” What do you love to do? Make time to do those things. Injecting more fun into your personal life will help you cope better with stress at work.
Share these pointers with your employees and keep your team cool, calm and collected even under pressure.