A lack of time, clarity and control; taking on too many projects at once; trying to find that perfect balance between your home and work life — these are all major contributors to our stress levels at work. No matter how rewarding your daily work may be, there are times when any career can become stressful. Reclaim your peace of mind with these five practical tips:
1) Refuel. You’re not supposed to “eat your feelings,” but some foods and drinks can actually help reduce stress. Drink some orange juice, or grab a handful of strawberries or another food high in vitamin C, which is known to reduce stress by lowering the levels of cortisol, known as “the stress hormone,” in your body. Instead of grabbing another cup of coffee or a soda, drink some tea, especially green tea. Not only does tea have less than half the caffeine of coffee; it also contains a variety of healthy antioxidants, including theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system. Choose oatmeal for breakfast or as an afternoon snack; it can boost the levels of serotonin in your body, which is the hormone that contributes to your overall feeling of happiness.
2) Call a friend. Give yourself a much-needed recharge in the middle of a crazy day with a quick mental or physical break. Call a loved one or a friend for a quick, five-minute pep talk or just to chat about something other than what’s causing your stress. Bring your athletic shoes to work, and in between meetings or over your lunch hour, get some fresh air with a walk around the block or on a walking trail outside your office building. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins, those hormones in your brain that trigger positive feelings in your body. For a little creative inspiration, pack an adult coloring book and some markers, and take a coloring break when you need a few moments of mental clarity.
3) Surround yourself with happiness. Display mementos and photos of your life outside of work — of family, pets, friends, fun vacations or your favorite beachfront happy place — around your workspace. Post your child’s stick-figure drawing or a photo of you crossing the finish line at your last half marathon in a prominent place, and stop to look at those items every once in a while to remind yourself of what’s really important.
4) Chew. And breathe. A 2008 study conducted by Andrew Scholey, Ph.D., professor of behavioral and brain sciences at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, found that regularly chewing gum lowered levels of anxiety, increased alertness and improved people’s ability to multitask. And who can feel too stressed while trying to blow the perfect bubble? If you’re really feeling the pressure, keep some balloons handy in a desk drawer. Not only will blowing one up force you to breathe deeply — it’ll also make your co-workers giggle. And laughter, as they say, is really the best medicine.
5) Harness the power of music. Playing calm background music can have positive effects on your brain and body and reduce cortisol levels. Plugging in your earbuds also blocks out mind-cluttering noise and can help you focus. And if you need to energize, playing that one song that really gets you going can motivate you before giving a big presentation or when you need to make it through that mid-afternoon slump.
Stress can be a part of day-to-day life in every career, but if it’s something that never seems to go away, it may be time to reevaluate your role. Check out our guide to recognizing when it’s time for a career change and, in the meantime, keep this list handy.