There’s that old adage about ‘working to live’ not ‘living to work’, a simple truth that makes so much sense, and yet it has been lost along the way for many people. Tragically, a new study reveals how America have forgotten this general truth with people actually dying from work.
According to the study, a stressful work environment could take up to 33 years off your life. Those workers with lower educational attainment were found to be the worst affected. Some modern workers’ life expectancy is at the level of the 1950s, suggesting the economic gains felt over the 20th century have only been felt by the educated middle class.
Work doesn’t have to be so stressful, though. Follow these five tips to keep you calm during your work day and enjoy your life in between the working day to the full.
1. Breathe deeply
If your boss is on your case and you have too many plates spinning, clear your head and recharge your body with a few minutes of deep breathing. This will restore balance and help clear your mind of these stressful thoughts. For the best results inhale for five seconds and exhale through the nose, repeat for two minutes. It’s like a mini yoga session at your desk.
2. Eat well
You need to be physically prepared to deal with workplace stress and the best way of doing this, is to make sure you are eating well. Low blood sugar can impair your concentration which can add to your stress levels, especially if you are unable to think clearly about your work priorities.
Eating too much can cause lethargy. Don’t skip breakfast and make sure you are loading up on plenty of slow-release carbohydrates to release energy throughout the day. Chocolate bars may give you an instant energy boost, but the effects of a sugar crash negate any short term effects.
3. Get moving
Exercise is a powerful stress reliever. When you’re feeling anxious and stressed out, most people will avoid exercise like the plague but it is incredibly beneficial. Raising your pulse rate can lift your mood, increase your energy, focus your concentration and relax your body.
Focusing on your body rather than your thoughts will immediately reduce stress. Exercise need only be as gentle as going for a walk or a gentle swim which you can incorporate into your working day if you have enough time. Research sporting facilities near your work and the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by work, grab your gym bag.
4. Hit the hay
Being stressed out can affect your sleep: late nights at the office make you go to bed later and when you finally lie down, your mind is racing and it’s more difficult to fall asleep. While stress prevents people sleeping, lack of sleep can compound stress as the body is unable to fully recuperate. A bad night’s sleep can impair your mental well-being all day.
Good sleep is not just about getting the hours in. You should be concerned about the quality of sleep as well. Banish electronics from the bedroom, and stop using them 30 minutes before you go to sleep. The LEDs in most gadgets have been shown to disrupt REM sleep patterns. To relax before going to sleep, read a book, listen to some soothing music or do some breathing exercises.
5. Task management
The best way of combating stress at work is to prioritise your tasks and to make sure you never get overburdened.
- Work/life balance: At the start of the week, sit down and have a think about the week ahead and plan it out in terms of both work and personal life. You don’t want to neglect either of these areas or let one impinge on the other otherwise you will feel pulled in all directions.
- Be realistic: Some tasks will take longer to complete, meetings will run over, unexpected items will drop in your inbox. There is only so much time in the day so don’t over commit yourself to do everything. Learn to say no sometimes, or offer alternative suggestions.
- Take a timeout: Regular breaks throughout the day will help focus your mind and will energise you for the tasks ahead. Take a break from your computer screen, grab a coffee or talk to the colleague on the other side of the building who you would usually only email.
What tips do you use to keep stress at bay during your working week?