It’s Sunday night, 3 in the morning, and you are once again, up, at your desk, on your computer and or writing in your notebook. Searching, typing, saving, erasing, rewriting, copying, pasting, saving, dragging this here, moving that there, second guessing, saving, and why? Why are you in this situation again? Poor planning? Perhaps, and if you were to get down to the root of it all, it probably is a yes. That being said though, no matter what the time of day, no matter whether it’s for work, school, or just dealing with day to day life, we all have to deal with some form of stress. Stress can either make you, or it can break you. It’s the difference between a Da Vinci, and a piece of paper with a stick man drawn on it praying that you will get an “A” or a raise just for making an effort. Stress brings out the best and worst in people in all ways, shapes and forms, however like you, sitting at the desk with RedBull in hand, it must be dealt with and not get between you and your deadline. If stress is the kind of thing that makes you awesome at everything and you therefore love it (as there are those people out there), might I suggest you become an Air Traffic Controller? Could be your natural calling. But, if you are like most of us, stress tends to bring us down and make everything else seem either incredibly daunting or just flat out impossible to do. So how do we beat it? How do we conquer stress and still be productive in our day to day work, school, and lives in general? This list of 10 ways to relieve stress should help you in your journey to overall efficiency (without losing your mind).
Everyone always says that you should take a minute, breathe, relax, and move on. Although most of us know that this is just generally a saying, turns out there is some actual science behind the breathing to calm you down thing.
The whole point of breathing, besides keeping you alive, is to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide through the movement of their lungs. Now the diaphragm is the happy muscle that makes that movement in the lungs and with the muscles in your lungs playing Robin to the diaphragm’s Batman. Take a minute and think about when you breathe normally, and when you breathe when you are stressed out. Generally what happens, same as when you are nervous, is that your breathing becomes more of short, shallow breaths and instead of our Batman and Robin team, you are relying on your shoulders for that movement which screws up the gases in your body (so…, your shoulders are like Jack Nicholson’s Joker when he gases the place; not good, NOT GOOD!).
So what can you do? Take 3-5 minutes of you time at your desk. Sit with your feet flat on the ground, hands palms down on your thighs, close your eyes, and slowly, take some deep breaths. Your eyes are closed as it will help you to imagine your lungs expanding/filling with air on each breath in, and emptying with each breath out. That and help you to not start screaming at your computer crashing and losing half of your work that you just spent the last two hours doing. Ctrl+S is your best friend. Use it…, and breathe.
9 This is so stupid it’s funny.
Good! Start laughing! It even helps in awkward situations…, sometimes. Just don’t laugh like The Joker. But unlike The Joker, laughing does help to reduce stress. Why? Glad you asked. Laughter releases endorphins that can improve your mood and decrease cortisol and adrenaline, which are the hormones that cause stress, and it tricks your brain into making you happy. Hooray! So, if you can, pull up Netflix or YouTube and watch something funny so that it makes you laugh. That being said, I would like to indicate that the key phrase there is, “if you can”, as sometimes it can be quite inappropriate to pull up Archer at your desk as it isn't quite the key to success. Or, plug headphones into your phone/tablet and pull it up on there for three minutes. OR, find the office comedian and see what joke or story they have to tell you to get you going for a bit. And now you know why when you laugh when carrying something heavy, you drop it on your foot causing massive stress, and pain.
8 Go outside!!!
Generally, when we are stressed and need to get an assignment or work project done, we sit in the same spot for hours on end and won’t leave until the work is completed. This is one way to be productive, but it can also be counterproductive as it can lead to tunnel vision and after a while, everything looks the same. So, do yourself a favour and go for a quick five to ten minute walk. Even if you can only take a lap or two around the office, fine; if you can get outside though, even better because it never hurts to get a bit of fresh air. Exercising releases endorphins into your body and it just feels good to get up and stretch, man! So go and chat it up with Cathy in accounting for a few minutes and see how those cats are doing.
7 I’m not crazy!
Try talking out the problem. You can talk it out with a friend or co-worker, sure but sometimes that isn't an option. Especially if it’s the working at 3am situation as friends care about you, but they can and will very quickly become your enemy if you call them at 3am and they are winning a snoring competition against their spouse. So, sometimes you have to bite the bullet of possible humiliation from other co-workers or others, sit there and talk out the problem to yourself. Even if you need to answer yourself, do it; it’s part of the problem solving process. That and it can help you rationalize to yourself why you are stressed out as well as reassure yourself that you are going to be ok. Think of it like a self-pep talk, just like you would before a big presentation at work or school. Build yourself up and help yourself relax by knowing that you are gonna get through it.
6 Listen to The Beatles, and Let It Be
Sometimes, no matter what you do, nothing can help you. Your classmates are jerks, and you hate your co-workers as much as you hate yourself for getting into this situation, and their shiny new car. However, one thing has never failed you in everything you have ever done. Your music.
Now, there are those people who conduct studies, I guess you could call them researchers and or scientists, but their studies show that when you listen to classical music like Yo-Yo Ma or Beethoven or Mozart, something nice and slow and soft, it helps you calm down. The reason for that is that it reduces your cortisol levels and it also lowers your blood pressure. They also say that you can listen to sounds of the ocean or even sounds of nature as these have the same effect. That’s all good, but if these sounds make you want to punch a hole in the wall, then go to your favorite song on your iTunes, plug in your headphones, and press Play. Even if it’s Gwar, it’s gonna help you out (RIP Dave Brockie).
5 Change it up at Starbucks!
Normally, you get stressed in the morning if you are running late as no one in the office would like to experience your mood if you DON’T get your morning coffee. However, instead of heading to get a cup of coffee at lunch, try getting a cup of tea instead. I know, I know, it’s not the sweet blissfulness that is coffee, but listen: having too much caffeine can cause a whole bunch of unpleasant physical and mental conditions including, but not limited to nervousness, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations because caffeine is a stimulant that effects the nervous system and increases cortisol along with blood pressure. FYI, cortisol levels being high and increased blood pressure is what causes stress. Switch to decaf, or even better, switch to green tea. Yes green tea can taste like lawn clippings, not going to lie to you, but it has half the caffeine of coffee, has antioxidants in it, and has an amino acid called theanine, which makes you calm down. Or, if you don’t like the taste of grass, then just keep a cup of water at your desk and fill it up a few times a day. This does a couple of things:
1) It makes you get up and go for a quick walk (like we talked about earlier)
2) Is healthier for you than all the coffee and pop you would normally drink at your desk (especially if you put cream and sugar in your coffee)
3) It keeps you hydrated which helps you think better, so you can focus and be more effective at solving your problem.
See what happens when you change it up every now and again?
4 Plan ahead and get organized, dammit!
We talked about it before, and I know it sucks, especially if you are a lazy person, to have to plan ahead for the next day or even the next week. However, you will also notice that some of the most successful people (like Gene Simmons) who have gotten their crap together by getting organized and planning, and this cuts their stress down substantially. Example: Plan ahead and bring healthy snacks to work versus relying on the vending machine. Bring something like some carrots, celery, berries OR if you are literally going to be running out the door, an apple, orange, or banana as those are easy to grab and go. When we are stressed and at work or school, and we don’t have anything healthy at our desk, we automatically go for the junk food in the vending machine. Sure, the sugar levels are great for a quick pick me up, but like caffeine, it affects the nervous system. So kick that habit now, that and this will help you save money.
And I’m not saying that you should get an agenda like when you were in elementary school that your parents had to sign to prove that you did your homework. You can use the planner on your tablet, computer, and smartphone whatever. Just remember, there will be a time when the technology will fail you, which is incredibly frustrating and stressful, so it’s always good to have a back-up SOMEWHERE. Also, with a lot of the planners that are out nowadays, they actually have a spot where you can make/jot down notes, and sometimes that’s what you need to do. Just write it down, or start drawing, or diagramming or something on paper with a pen that will help you work it out. This can also help you work out the problem that is causing the stress for you in the first place (and it helps you confirm to other people that you really aren't crazy when you are doing this and talking to yourself).
3 That dust in here is NOT HELPING!
Being stressed in a space that is cleaner than a hospital is one thing, but being stressed out in a space where you can’t find anything when you need to look at it right now does not help your cause. Therefore, one of the ways you can take your mind off of the immediate problem (which you are stressing over) and still be immensely productive is by cleaning your space. You have to do it eventually, might as well do it now. This not only helps you get organized in one form or another, but it gives you one less thing off your plate of important stuff to do, and it only takes a minimum of two minutes for a quick tidy-up. That, and people in the office will notice you cleaning and it will give them the idea to get cleaning and that just helps out your overall environment as no one likes being thrown into a game of Minesweeper that you had no idea was going on between your office and the exit of the building. Try to keep a mini Swiffer duster by your desk somewhere, and one of those containers of Lysol cleaning wipes so that way, when you are stressed out enough to punch someone in the face, punch dirt in the face, cause it’s earned it or it’s gonna be earning it in the near future; either way, take care of it now and then you won’t have to punch a person.
2 Get those vacation photos printed
And then put them in a frame (even those cheap ones from the Dollar Store) and put them on your desk or on your wall away above and off to the side from where your computer monitor is. Why? Few of reasons:
1) It makes you look away from the problem for a minute.
2) It brings back memories of how epicly awesome the trip was.
3) If it’s a funny photo, it can make you laugh, which we talked about as being a way to relax.
4) It reminds you of how relaxed you were when you were enjoying the trip, hence making your brain force everything to relax too.
See? And you thought those photos were just for bragging rights on Facebook. Ha!
1 The best word in the English language for slackers in management everywhere.
DELEGATE! Awesome right?
It’s not always possible, but whenever it is possible, make the problem someone else’s problem. But don’t just pawn it off onto just anyone. You should learn something of the people that work for/with you and learn what their strengths are. You would not give someone a problem that involves numbers to someone who flunked Math eight times in school; that’s a career limiting move. Also make sure that you lay out clear expectations and clearly communicate deadlines to them and make sure that it’s a reasonable deadline. No one wants to be delegated to do a presentation on the pros and cons of market economies that’s going to be presented to the CEO with only 2 days to work on it; another career limiting move! However, not only does delegating take tasks off your plate, but it empowers the people who you delegate to. It also allows you the opportunity to develop them professionally, to see who is exceeding in their role and who clearly is not, and it gives your boss the opportunity to see how well you manage people, work in a team environment and see if you are ready for a promotion and or raise. And everyone wants more money so we can buy all the cool shiny things that make us smile when we look at them, like a car. Cause they’re shiny. So relaxing.