Every year National Stress Awareness Day is recognized on the first Wednesday in November. It comes as little surprise that this day coincides with the beginning of the holiday season. The holidays include many amazing celebrations with family and friends. However, all of the holiday preparation and time spent outside your normal routine can lead to increased stress which has the potential to spill over into the workplace. During this time of the year, employees are often working with shortened deadlines, meeting expectations for the end of the fiscal year, and dealing with stressed-out customers. Not only can these extra stressors lead to a reduction of productivity and leave us feeling overwhelmed, but this increased stress can take its toll on our physical and mental health. Below are simple tips for managing stress daily.
Make Sleep a Priority
Stress can keep us up at night which can leave us feeling groggy at work the next day which, you guessed it, causes us even more stress. Luckily, there are many things we can do to combat this vicious cycle. Here are just a few helpful ideas to help us get a full night’s rest:
1. Light a candle or diffuse essential oils.
Diffusing essential oils or burning a scented candle will leave you in a calming aroma that can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Some especially soothing scents to help foster relaxation and sleep are lavender, chamomile, jasmine, rose, and sandalwood.
2. Drink tea.
A cup of caffeine-free tea acts as a comforting way to de-stress before bed. Try sleep-promoting flavors such as chamomile, ginger, and peppermint.
3. Reduce your screen time.
Our digital devices give off blue light which can throw off our internal clocks. Consider giving yourself a screen time limit each night and be sure to switch to night mode on your tablets or invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses. You can also try swapping your devices with a journal or book to wind down. These tech-free alternatives can help you soothe stress.
4. Try using a white noise app or machine for background noise.
If you are a light sleeper or easily distracted by underlying noises, try using a white noise machine to help you fall asleep. White noise is used to mask background noises with soothing sounds such as a rushing waterfall, rain falling, and other nature-like sounds intended to calm you and help you fall asleep.
Incorporate Stress-busting Foods Into Your Diet
One of the most important steps in managing stress is being conscious of what we are putting in our bodies. Certain foods can help lower stress in a number of ways by boosting levels of serotonin, cutting levels of cortisol and adrenaline, restoring the immune system, and lowering blood pressure. Here are some stress-busting foods that make for simple breakfasts, lunches, and snacks you can enjoy at work:
- Nuts - The B vitamins in nuts help your neurotransmitters handle the fight-or-flight response and the potassium found in nuts can lower blood pressure and reduce the strain that stress has on our hearts.
- Yogurt - A link has been found that foods high in probiotic cultures such as yogurt and other fermented food can help to reduce anxiety.
- Red peppers - With 95 milligrams of vitamin C per ½ cup serving red peppers help you to lower your blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.
- Dark chocolate - Chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa can help lower cortisol and fight-or-flight hormone levels.
- Salmon - Loaded with omega-3s that can help reduce anxiety.
- Spinach - Rich in magnesium that helps to regulate blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.
- Avocados - Similar to nuts avocado is rich in B vitamins that have positive effects on the nervous system and can help reduce stress as well as high levels of potassium to lower blood pressure and reduce the strain on our hearts.
- Asparagus - 1 cup of asparagus provides ⅔ of your daily recommended folate which can help you avoid elevated folate deficiency (studies indicate that many people deficient in folate suffer from anxiety and depression).
Another great stress-busting strategy is exercise. Aerobic exercise boosts oxygen circulation and releases endorphins which lifts mood, increases energy, and sharpens focus. Exercise has a stigma of being intimidating and many people are hesitant to start exercising due to busy schedules or the dread of going to a gym. However, this isn’t the case. Whatever your fitness level is, there are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your life. You don’t need to change your entire schedule to start exercising, all you need is 30 minutes and yourself. For maximum stress relief, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week. If you’re worried this won’t fit into your schedule, you can break up the activity into two or three shorter segments. Adding just a small amount of physical activity to your weekly routine can go a long way and make a huge impact on your mental and emotional health leaving you more resilient to stress.
Having a cluttered workspace or an overflowing email inbox is not only distracting but can cause major distress. If you are stressing about an unorganized desk or office, you lose focus on the work that is in front of you. An organized workspace not only looks nice but can also help with productivity and motivation. Here are a few ways to keep organized at work:
1. Get rid of what you no longer need.
Don’t let piles of paperwork stack up. Simplify paperwork by establishing an easy paper system. If you haven’t used something in months, get rid of it or store it somewhere out of eyesight. Create a filing system for ongoing projects and important documents. Keep each file labeled and color-coded to categorize them. Once everything is in it’s designated place, it will be much easier to know where things are.
2. Have a planner.
Whether you prefer Google Calendar, App, or a notebook planner, keeping track of your work plans will help you stay organized and remember when things are due so you don’t have any surprising deadlines or appointments you forgot about.
3. Write out a list of your tasks for the day.
Putting together a daily “to-do” list not only schedules out your workday but helps you figure out the tasks you need to focus on first.
4. Organize your virtual workspace.
Just like paper documents, digital clutter can also be minimized. To organize your work email inbox, first start by purging any and all emails you no longer need. If you’re not ready to delete certain emails just yet, hit the archive button. Once you have your inbox consolidated, you can categorize emails by creating folders and labels. You can also prioritize emails by flagging them or filtering them so they automatically go to the appropriate folder. Before you know it, you’ll have a clean and organized inbox.
When feeling overwhelmed by your workload, one of the best things you can do is step away and take a moment to recharge your brain. Our brains are not wired to concentrate for 8 hours straight, so taking breaks throughout the day is actually extremely beneficial, both physically and mentally. Breaks help to boost productivity and lower stress. With that being said, employees should never feel guilty for taking breaks and should always utilize their entire time allocated for lunch to improve brain function. Next time you’re feeling stressed at work, take a moment for yourself. Whether that’s taking a walk, socializing with a coworker, watching a funny video clip, or practicing deep breathing exercises - take the break, you deserve it.
The added stress that comes this time of year combined with the everyday stresses we encounter in the workplace and our personal lives can be overwhelming at times. However, there are many simple ways we can manage the pressure and stress we experience. Today of all days, we ask that you take a moment for yourself and pay attention to your stress levels. Next time you’re feeling under stress, make sure to utilize these helpful tips.