10 Ways to De-Stress Your Work Day

Career stress? Here's how to simplify your 9 to 5.

1. Get a Head Start


Leave home 30 minutes earlier than normal. Studies find that the less rushed you feel in the morning, the less stressed you'll be for the rest of the day.

2. Bring Snacks

istock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

Bring a spill-proof coffee cup filled with your favorite brew to the office, and have a bag of nonperishable snacks on hand (try protein bars, dried fruit and nuts, juice boxes, or pretzels). Going for more than a few hours without a snack can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, and you'll end up exacerbating stress. This way, even if you have to work through back-to-back meetings, you'll be able to grab some fuel.

3. Give Yourself Some Credit


Most of us don’t take enough time to praise ourselves for doing things well. So when you’ve completed an interim or long-term goal, tell yourself—out loud—what a good job you’ve done. You’ll get a burst of confidence that will go a long way towards helping you maintain your cool amid the workplace madness.

4. Schedule 10 Minutes of “Worry Time”


Close your office door or go sit in an empty conference room and think about what's stressing you out. Bring a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns: My Worry; Why It Worries Me; Worst Thing That Could Happen. Once you confront the worst-case scenario, and realize that it probably won't ever happen, you can get back to work with your worry load lightened.

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5. Manage Your Email

istock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

With about 5.5 trillion emails sent each year, it's no wonder your inbox is overflowing. To keep from stressing out, cut down the amount of time you spend reading and sending emails. Don't waste a message acknowledging receipt of an email, and put responses in the subject when possible so you don't have to compose a new message. Finally, use the “rule of three”: if you’ve gone back and forth on a topic three
times and you’re still confused or have questions, pick up the phone.

6. Stretch


This is especially important if you have a sedentary job. Try lifting your legs up and stretching them for 30 seconds. This movement reduces the risk of blood clots that can result from sitting too long in one position. Another useful exercise is to put one arm behind your neck and stretch it by holding on to the elbow with the opposite arm. Switch sides and repeat.

7. Have a “Perspective Reminder”


Stress can overpower you at times, but your
troubles are smaller than they seem. To remind yourself of that, keep a picture in your office—the earth taken from space, a starry night or the ocean—and look at it
whenever you feel overwhelmed. Amid countless stars and the timeless crashing
of waves against the shore, how important is that deadline, really?

8. Plan Ahead


When work is challenging, devote some of your down time, like weekends and evenings, to making a to-do list for the next week. Make a list, place boxes next to each item, and tick off the boxes as you get things done. You’ll avoid forgetting anything, you’ll
stay focused on the job, and it’s very satisfying to
tick off those boxes.

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9. Socialize With Colleagues


Suggest a once-a-week gathering with your co-workers where
you can talk about a particular work issue. Use your collective brain to figure
out how to do something better, enhance
productivity, or improve relationships.

10. Remind Yourself Why


Make a display in your office to remind you of
your personal life. Include pictures of your spouse, children, and pet, a
photograph of yourself doing something fun, plus a memento that reminds you of
a special occasion. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed and stressed
out, take five minutes and simply enjoy the display. Recall the day each
picture was taken. Hold your memento and return in your memory to the day you
got it. Now you’re ready to return to work.

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