Even if you love your job like I do, work can be pretty stressful sometimes. Between the constant demands of projects and deadlines and the persistent fear that for many, this might be the week they get laid off, it’s no surprise that many of us are stressed out on the job. Not only can this take a severe toll on your mental health, but being under pressure on the job can actually hurt your physical health, too. For instance, a study done in Finland showed that workers who feel like their bosses don’t listen to them are actually at a much greater risk of coronary heart disease! Stress can also cause symptoms like headaches, panic attacks, and even elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels. That’s some pretty alarming stuff. But what can we do about it? While we can’t all win the lottery and retire to Tahiti, there are a few things that we can all do to lower our stress levels at the office.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “I breathe all day long.” But when’s the last time you actually paid attention to your breathing? Take a moment every once in a while and close your eyes, and just breathe, slowly, in and out, and really focus on it and listen to your breaths. This is a simple form of meditation that can help to calm you down and clear your mind.
Having a neat, orderly work space can help make your work day less stressful, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about getting your mind and your job duties in order. Write everything down on a desk calendar or on a whiteboard, or write the tasks you need to accomplish on index cards and pin them to a cork board, or try out a new project management system. Find a system that works for you to keep better track of what you need to do, when you need to do it, and what’s already been completed. This will keep you from worrying about what you’ve forgotten to do or, worse, having to deal with the fallout after you’ve failed to keep all of the balls in the air.
A little chit-chat with your coworkers can provide a needed morale boost and sense of camaraderie, but when a whole group of them hang out by your desk for an hour talking about the TV show they saw last night, it can really hamper your productivity. Kindly tell them to take their chatter elsewhere, if you can. Another distraction to eliminate is your smartphone: Texting on the job is no way to get work done. Put the phone on vibrate and stow it out of sight. Try to minimize distractions so you can stay on track and meet your deadlines without a last-minute panic.
Get Some Shut-Eye
You shouldn’t sleep on the job, of course, not while you’re supposed to be working. But you should definitely try to get a good night’s sleep every night, so you can get through the work day without relying on a steady supply of coffee. Struggling to stay awake only makes it harder to get the job done. In a pinch, try taking a quick power nap on your lunch break if you’re feeling groggy.
When you have an unhealthy diet, looking in the mirror can be stressful enough. But research has also shown that a poor diet can raise your stress levels. On the other hand, eating well is good for your body and for your mind. A diet packed with fruits and vegetables can actually help you feel calmer as well as making your body healthier. So, maybe the solution to a bad day isn’t a pint of ice cream after all: Maybe you should reach for a salad or some fruit instead.