Work stress bringing you down? In today’s highly competitive environment, it’s tough to avoid work-related stress. In a worst-case scenario, it can cause health problems or tension at home and performance issues at work. Psychologists and counselors advise that employees should identify the cause of their stress and tackle it head on. But often, there’s no single cause and it’s a combination of factors. In that case, you need to improve your ability to cope with stress.
Here are some tips to follow in your daily routine, which can help you do that.
It’s common for many of us to stay stuck to our desks for hours on end because we feel we can’t afford to take a break. But counselors say this hurts us in the long-run, because our minds can’t function efficiently non-stop.
They advise taking a three- to five-minute break every one or two hours. It could be as simple as walking to the office water cooler, or getting up from your desk to stretch your muscles. “Just taking a break and walking around refreshes you,” says T.V. Mohandas Pai, director of human resources, education, research and administration at Infosys Technologies Ltd.
When you return from your walk, you’ll find yourself being more productive.
2. The lunch break
Lunch time is likely your longest break during the work day, so don’t waste it.
If you are not in the habit of taking regular lunch, set a reminder in your Outlook or mobile phone to do so. Even on hectic days when you might be tempted to skip lunch, don’t do it.
“If possible, get up and get away from your desk when you’re eating, because otherwise you’re staying in that high-stress area for a long time,” says Karuna Bhaskar, a counseling psychologist at 1to1help.net Pvt. Ltd., a counseling firm in Bangalore.
3. A hobby and a friend help
Try and squeeze in a 10- to 15-minute break once every three hours and use that time to pursue activities that give you pleasure. “Have a cup of coffee with somebody else. Crack some jokes,” says Ms. Bhaskar. If you are an artist, you could try sketching, or go play table tennis if your office has that facility. Doing something different from what you do for the rest of the day can make your break more meaningful, says Ms. Bhaskar. If you can’t afford to get away from your desk, try listening to soothing music.
4. The right foods
When we are stressed out, some of us tend to eat more. Often, we turn to junk food like chips or cookies or sweets. But while sugar can provide a short-term rush, it can leave you feeling deflated not to mention adding to your weight.
Do yourself a favor by keeping some healthy snacks around. These could include dried fruits, peanuts, cut-up carrots and cucumbers.
5. Nice surroundings help
If you have a desk or a cubicle, it’s almost like your home during the work day. Try and keep your work-space tidy – that will not only allow you to find things more easily but also lend a sense of calmness and of having things under control.
Try adding a personal touch to the workplace, like a family photo –something which reminds you what all the hard work is for.
6. Time management
This may sound clichéd but it works!
Often, we get stressed because we’re rushing to complete our tasks and meet our deadlines. Maybe you have too much on your plate but more likely, the lack of time is because of poor time-management. Planning in advance can help. “You need to prioritize your work. Make a list of the most important jobs you have to deal with. Learn to delegate,” says Monica Chib, senior consultant in psychiatry at Apollo Hospitals.
One idea could be to come to work 30 minutes before everyone else and use that quiet time for thinking and planning for the day. Stay late at work if you need to once in a while, but “don’t carry forward (work) to the last day,” says Mr. Pai.
7. Deep breathing
Sometimes when we are seriously stressed out, we are so focused on our work that our breathing becomes shallow. Take a minute to breathe deeply. Put your hand on your stomach and when you inhale deeply, your abdomen should come out. When you exhale, it should go in. Do this a few times and you will feel relaxed almost immediately.
8. Get a life
Believe it or not, what you do outside work has a huge impact on how you feel at work.
If you simply come home, eat dinner and start working again, you will never completely relax. Instead, do what Mr. Pai does. He’ll put in 10- or 12-hour days if needed to finish his tasks but “when I go home, I forget about work,” he says.
If possible, make plans to do something once or twice a week, say dinner or a movie. It gives you something to look forward to during your work days. Make plans for the weekend. Mr. Pai recommends taking up a cause or an interest outside of work, such as volunteering or joining an ecology club. This helps provide “a sense of accomplishment outside of work,” says Mr. Pai, and “a reason for existence.”
When you are stressed, your body tenses up as if it’s about to get into a fight. The body can’t distinguish between mental and physical stress, says Ms. Bhaskar.
Exercise can help burn off that energy, thus easing your tension.
So make it a point to exercise often, even if it’s for a short period of time. It will also generally make you happier because exercise releases feel-good hormones. As an added bonus, regular exercise gives you a sense of achievement from having accomplished what you had planned to do.
10. Better lifestyle choices
Sometimes people turn to smoking or excessive drinking as stress-busters, but these cause much bigger problems in the long run. Instead, individuals should make lifestyle choices which make them physically fit, which in turn, helps them cope with stress better, says Ms. Chib of Apollo. “Get adequate hours of sleep which is something that people these days don’t really get,” she says.