Despite countless studies that have found that exercise is the best way to relieve stress, many of us do anything but exercise when we’re feeling the pull of our countless obligations.
The most common forms of stress relief often involve fatty comfort food, cocktails, or an unprecedented amount of shopping (mostly for things we do not need). Sure, it’s your right to relieve stress however you like, but chances are indulgences in the form of unhealthy food, large quantities of alcohol, and credit card debt will only make you feel unhealthier and more stressed than before you set out to make yourself feel better.
It should come as no surprise that our jobs are responsible for the majority of the stress we’re feeling. For most in industrialized nations, our bosses, co-workers, and work obligations are capable of piling on more stress during a single eight-hour shift than a week at home with a nagging spouse, never-ending housework, and a rambunctious toddler combined.
So the next time you feel the familiar sting of stress when you’re at the office, consider these stress relief techniques:
Take a Walk
If you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed at work, take a break and take a brisk walk around the block. It will get you re-focused and help you blow off some steam. Any type of exercise can help to shake off the stress, so get up and get moving.
In fact, according to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, exercise can help to stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins, so it helps to improve your mood and relieve stress. The Mayo Clinic recommends walking for 20 to 30 minutes up to five days per week in order to relieve stress and prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Make Your Life Easier
If you control your own schedule and you know you’re not a morning person, make your life easier and avoid scheduling morning meetings. The extra sleep or a long, lingering breakfast will be a better start to your day. Why start your day grouchily rushing to a morning meeting if you don’t have to?
A Sweet Snack
It has been found that dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and the consumption of chocolate triggers the release of endorphins in our brain, which as previously mentioned, are chemicals that make us happy. So, the next time you’re feeling stressed or experiencing a complete lack of energy around 3 p.m., eat a bit of dark chocolate and just wait for those endorphins to kick in. These stress relief techniques are just getting better.
When you know you have a business trip coming up, plan ahead. You may not be able to control a cancelled flight or a lost reservation, but being prepared for these hiccups in the road can save you a lot of stress. Plan for delays and have an idea in mind as to how you’ll use the extra time: A call to your spouse, a meal at a local restaurant, catching up on e-mail, these are all great ways to feel productive while dealing with something that’s out of your control.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Keeping with the theme of control — sometimes you don’t have it, and you can’t let that bother you or ruin your day. You can only be responsible for your end of things and you can’t sweat the stuff that’s beyond your control. The next time you feel yourself stressing out over things, keep the old serenity prayer in mind: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Put Things in Perspective
Once when I failed to turn in a paper on time I was visibly upset and my English teacher took me aside and said, “Is this important now and does it feel horrible today? Yes, but in the major scheme of things, this late paper won’t mean anything.” It was good advice for a 10th grader, and it’s good advice in an office setting too. When the worst happens at work, think about what the situation will look like five years from now. Will it still feel important? Time and distance are capable of providing the perspective we lack when we’re stressed and caught up in the moment.
Laugh it Off
It’s true what they say: Laughter is the best medicine and having a good sense of humor is the key to reducing stress. Recent research has shown that there are many health benefits to laughter. According to Elizabeth Scott, a wellness coach and health educator, our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge and humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges, thereby making them less threatening and more positive. Plus, laughter provides a physical and emotional release and when you’re feeling stressed, it’s better to laugh than cry.
When you get home from a long, stressful day at work the last thing you want to do is relive it all over again by talking to your spouse about it. Plus, it might be difficult for them to understand the kind of pressure you’re under. This is exactly why reaching out to a trusted colleague can be a major stress reliever. Grab lunch with a co-worker or talk over a cup of coffee. Just talking to someone who understands exactly what you’re going through and is experiencing the same thing can be a major release; you’ll know you’re not alone and that there’s always someone around you can talk to who understands.
Start a Stress Journal
According to Help Guide — a non-profit resource aimed at understanding, preventing, and resolving challenges — starting a stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors at work and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed on the job, the site recommends keeping track of it in your journal and as you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Help Guide recommends keeping note of the following in your stress journal:
- What caused the stress
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
Once you have a better understanding of what stresses you out, you’ll be able to manage your reaction in a more healthy way.
Learn How to Say No
Let’s face it: Some of us just don’t know how to say no and chances are a few of our more callous colleagues know this, which is why they pile their work on top of ours knowing we’ll be unable to stick up for ourselves. It’s vital that you don’t take on more than you can handle and that you learn to say “NO!” In other words, know your limits and stick to them. According to Help Guide, you should refuse to accept added responsibilities when you’re close to reaching them because taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Hope these stress relief techniques help!