Adapted from my article on The Camp Whisperer.
We all know stress is harmful to our health, our productivity, our work relationships, our personal relationships, and basically every aspect of our lives. Articles abound regarding ways to reduce stress, but I often find they miss the reality that we cannot always escape from stressors.
Instead of just trying to escape the stressors of last-minute deadlines and whatever else may come up in our lives, I have found it helpful to also build in healthy practices to counteract the negative effects of these stressors. These tips are nothing new, but they are the combination I use in my own life.
These 10 tips have helped me immensely:
- Leave for work 10 minutes earlier than necessary. This way, you won’t worry about being late; if you get there early, you can take a few minutes to accomplish a few extra tasks. Or just drink coffee.
- Set specific times for checking e-mail and social media. E-mails take over your entire day if you let them. Give yourself permission to wait for that stress until you have specifically decided you are ready.
- Take a 5-10 minute break at least every hour. Not only will this lower stress, it will also increase your ability to concentrate when you are working. Our brains are unable to focus for much longer, and this break allows your brain to recharge.
- Drink water. Proper hydration will make you feel better all day long.
- Go for lunch. Do not eat lunch at your desk or on the run, unless absolutely necessary. The break will do you good, and sitting down for a meal will also help you digest better. Also, going for lunch with colleagues helps build connections that will lower your stress down the road as they do more to help you with your work.
- Work task-by-task. Take 45 minutes and focus on just one thing. Then take a break and move on to the next. Multi-tasking is a useful skill, but use it only when needed. It adds stress and lowers your ability to do any one task exceptionally.
- Plan ahead. Procrastination is stressful. Try to finish as many things as you can as early as you can. This way those unfinished tasks aren’t rolling around in your mind all the time.
- Exercise. Exercise is clinically proven to lower stress and improve overall health. Even 5 minutes of exercise can positively affect your mood and lower stress.
- Take a deep breath. Deep breathing provides extra oxygen to your blood supply, which positively influences health and mood. Every time you stop for a break, take a few deep breaths. Every time you start to feel overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths.
- Use a planner. Having to keep your responsibilities in your mind is stressful; write them down so you don’t have to stress over them any more. Put all of your to-do’s on paper and then let your mind forget them. Not a paper person? Online calendars are almost as good.