Here are 10 ways you can reduce stress at work each day. Not all of them will be realistic for your job, but some of them will. Focus on the ones that work for you and forget about the rest.
1. Work in 90–minute sessions. After studying elite athletes, musicians, actors, and chess players, Dr. K. Anders Ericsson at Florida State University discovered that the top performers work in approximately 90–minute sessions and then take a break. They focus intensely and then give themselves time to recover and regain energy. (Interestingly, Ericsson also produced the research behind the “10,000 Hour Rule” for expertise that Malcolm Gladwell popularized.)
2. Break your day up with exercise. You're probably aware that exercise reduces stress, but there are some rarely talked about benefits of exercise as well. Regardless of why you exercise, the bottom line is this: get out and move.
3. When you leave work, leave work. I'll admit that I'm just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to answering work emails at all hours of the day. That said, on the evenings when I've ignored my inbox I've noticed something: nothing changes. When the work day starts, I still have things to do and people to respond to; the additional time the night before doesn't make the next day any easier.
Give your email a rest for a night or two and see if work is any different the next day. Your time outside of the office should be spent on you and the people you care about, not in your inbox.
4. Do something creative (either at work or outside of it). Numerous studies have proven that creative pursuits like music, art, and writing reduce stress. Plus, creativity helps you avoid living a short, unimportant life. My creative outlet is photography. What's yours?
5. Meditate. If you don't think you have enough time to meditate. You can start with few minutes of silence and remembering your happy moments.
6. Breathe. It sounds so simple, but we rarely make time in our day to just breathe. The good news is that you can do this anytime, including right now. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose for a count of three and out through your mouth for a count of five. Do this 5 times and see how you feel.
7. Leave your desk for lunch. Give yourself some space and get out of the work environment. There's a reason why people suggest getting a fresh breath of air.
8. Take a short nap. A University of California researcher found that a 60–minute nap improved memory just as much as an 8–hours of sleep. Short naps of 20 minutes have shown big benefits as well. And to top it all off, this study revealed that occasional napping can lead to a 12% decrease in heart disease and daily napping can lead to a 37% reduction.
9. Take vacation more frequently. And when you’re on vacation, be on vacation. The emails, phone calls, and presentations can wait.
10. Get to sleep earlier. This study found that when basketball players got 10 hours of sleep the night before, their shooting accuracy improved by 9% the next day. I'm guessing you could benefit from moving and thinking more accurately as well. (Not to mention that it might be nice to get 10 hours of sleep.)
The evidence is overwhelming: you need to take an active interest in living healthy and reducing stress or you will die sooner. I can’t say it any clearer than that.
Is Working Hard Worth It?
All this talk of stress from work can leave you thinking that hard work isn’t worth it.
Working hard is worth every bit of your effort. You’ll never regret choosing greatness for your life and going for it.
But the question you need to ask is, “Are you working hard on the right things?”
Do you give your health as much focus as your work? Do you give your relationships as much emphasis as your deadlines? Do you make time for exploring, creating, and travelling, just like you make time for meetings, conference calls, and clients?
Or are you simply spending all of your time at work?
In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt,
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
What could be more worth doing than working on your health and happiness?