Whether it’s work-related, financial or just the general state of the world, Americans are very stressed. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic stress can lead to some serious health issues over time. So, it’s important that we manage our stress not just when we’re burnt out, but in the day-to-day.
But, let’s be real here. We don’t all have an hour to meditate at our desk or nearby puppies to hold when we get stressed. So, what are some small, realistic steps we can take to help manage our stress? We came up with some for you (and for ourselves, too.)
1. Implement small brain breaks throughout the day
Some articles you’ll find on the benefits of work breaks will tell you to take a break every 1-2 hours for optimal performance. We agree with this in a general sense, but also do what works for you. If you’re feeling productive and in your element, there’s probably no need for a break. But if you’re lagging or find yourself losing focus every few minutes anyway, it’s time for a break. Our favorite break techniques?
- Take a brief walk – Take a lap around your office or walk to another level of your building. If you work from home, take a minute to walk briefly outside. Getting up and moving is not only great for your body (since we all know constant sitting is not healthy,) but it also lets your mind truly take a break by leaving your workspace. Nothing’s worse than a “break” you spend just thinking about what you have to do after your break.
- Read a book (or something else fun) – Something I’ve noticed when working is that if I give my brain another task during my break (a fun one, of course) like reading a book I’m really enjoying or maybe even watching a YouTube video, it really helps me separate myself from work and truly relax. It might sound counterintuitive to “do” something on your break, but it can help your brain focus on something other than the fact that you only have 4 minutes… 3 minutes… 2 left of your break.
2. Go check your mail
AKA get outside. Are you only ever stressed in the office? If so, you’re a lucky one. A lot of us have things at home that stress us out, too. Like that unexpected bill you forgot about or taking care of kids while trying to accomplish a task you need to complete. Take a quick walk to your mailbox, step out in your backyard or on your patio and just take a moment (a phoneless moment) to just exist outside. Just the fresh air can improve your mood. Give yourself a minute and head back in refreshed.
3. Do something you enjoy – every day
Don’t let the day slip away without doing at least one thing for yourself. If you’re a parent or have a lot of responsibilities at work and at home, this might be tough to do but try to carve out time specifically for it. Maybe that’s 10 minutes of calming yoga or maybe you try yoga once a year and can never get into it. Your relaxation might be watching your favorite comedy on TV. The best way to relax (without forcing yourself to do it) is to do something you love.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
We know. This tip is annoying. But it’s just true. The healthier you are in your daily life (exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep) will help manage your stress levels along with these other tips.
5. Set yourself up for relaxation
According to the Mayo Clinic, in order to best manage stress you need to know what stresses you out. Some things are obvious: if we’re having a problem in our relationships or facing financial trouble, we’re going to be stressed, right? But some you may not think about. For example, running late can be very stressful and cause you to feel behind and rushed for the rest of the day. Obviously, mistakes happen and we can’t avoid stress altogether. But we can take some steps to prevent stressful situations from happening often and the ones we can’t prevent (ahem, traffic,) we can set ourselves up to find relaxation in those moments.
Stress management techniques:
- Give yourself time – Have a work meeting at 6am when you usually work at 8? Give yourself the same amount of time to get ready that you always do. Make sure you have time to cook your usual eggs and toast instead of grabbing a handful of granola on your way out the door. I like to give myself extra time in the mornings so nothing I do feels rushed. That way, if something takes a little longer than expected, I’m not frustrated and it doesn’t throw off my whole morning.
- Be aware of your finances – Is paying bills ever not stressful? Well, we can at least say for sure that it’s definitely a lot less stressful when you know they’re coming than when you don’t. Sometimes, we can’t control this (like with an unexpected hospital bill, for example.) But other times, we can. Avoid piling on financial stress by taking note of when Hulu suddenly pulls that money from your account or budgeting for loan payment ahead of time.
- Be proactive – As much as we may want to, we cannot change traffic. If you have to leave your house an hour earlier in order to not be stressed that you may not make it to work on time, make that extra hour a priority. Even though we can’t change this stressful situation, we can prevent ourselves from getting too stressed out by it. I once had an hour drive home from a job every day even though it was no more than 10 miles from my house. How is that not stress-inducing?! But when I decided to settle in, have a snack handy and choose a favorite album or a new podcast to play in the car, it changed my whole perspective and if one day, it took an extra 20 minutes, I was unbothered.
The key points here? Give your brain a rest when it’s asking for it (breaks ARE productive,) get fresh air daily, do something for yourself every day, try to make healthy choices overall and know what stresses you out and prepare yourself for it. Here’s to a calmer, happier you.