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Seven Stress-Busting Strategies for Busy Workdays

By Linda Nacif

First there’s the bumper-to-bumper traffic. Then a morning meeting, where you feast on stale coffee and donuts. After that, you look down at your to-do list, which is filled with staff meetings, potential client lunches and an upcoming conference for your industry. Add to that, the piano recital for your daughter and your son’s weekend soccer game, which leaves no time for that dental appointment you desperately need. If your schedule sounds as stressful as this, you’re not alone.

Millions of workers have an increased workload, while also trying to keep a balance between home life and work life. For many, the stress is just too much. It continues to build, until they feel overwhelmed. Soon that stress turns into a cold or the flu or indigestion. Yet after we take our pills and see the doctor, we continue to do too much, worry too much and feel pressured and we get sick again. This time it might be more serious: our blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels may go up and we might even become depressed. This negative cycle can continue for many years and may even lead to more serious life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer. Until one day the cycle stops – but so do our hearts.

If only we had known that by worrying, getting angry, or doing too much we activated what is known as the “stress response.”

If only we would have known this non-specific reaction to stress creates an excess of adrenaline, which is the “fight or flight” response whose purpose is to keep us in a state of alertness and tension.

If only our doctors would have explained to us about the hormone cortisol that wreaks havoc on our bodies and minds.

If only we had been given alternatives to the way we dealt with the inevitability of stress.

If only we could do done things differently. But would we?

Although we do not want to avoid stress completely, because it is a condition of life itself, we need to know when it reaches dangerous levels in our body and prevent it from harming us. The following are seven sure-fire ways to stay in control of stress in the office and beyond.

  1. Give a positive meaning to everything that happens to you. It is the meaning, not the event, that causes your body to secrete those harmful hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. If you are dealing with an unrealistic deadline, think about how happy your client will be if they receive the document on time. By deciding to give a positive meaning to everything that happens to you, 90% of stress will be eliminated.

  2. Choose your fights intelligently. Very few things in life are worth fighting over. That parking spot near the office door – is it really worth fighting over with your colleague? Save your stress and energy for an emergency situation, when you really need it. Don’t waste it on a colleague who wants to pick a fight over the copier or someone who cuts you off in the parking lot. Ask yourself if it’s worth a fight and if anything will change. If the answer is “no,” then why get your adrenaline going to prepare for a fight? In some cases, the “flight” response might be more stressful. So, state your need, set your boundaries and be on your way.

  3. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself. We all have different signals that tell us we are reaching our breaking point. For some it is a headache, for others it is indigestion. For some it is insomnia, while yet others experience depression. These are wake up calls for you to curtail whatever it is that is causing you stress. Meanwhile, do an activity that you like! If you’re at work, take a break and walk around the courtyard or even the parking lot. If you’re at home, watch a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, or re-connect with a loved one. It’s okay to miss an aerobic class or the workplace cocktail party or a visit with your in-laws. Everything will wait but your health.

  4. Respect your individual rhythm. Some people not only can, but need to do many things at the same time. They thrive on stress. Others need to take their time and smell the roses on the way. Know yourself and respect your own rhythm. If you work better under pressure and with a deadline, then use that to your advantage. If you like working in complete peace, without colleagues talking or outside noise disturbing you, find a quiet place to finish up that project. If the turtle used the rabbit’s pace it would kill him and vice versa. Think about times when things have flowed for you, when you were most productive and creative. What were you doing? How did you feel? And now remember when you were pushing yourself to do too much or too little?

  5. Don’t worry about the “what if’s”! Very few things are worth getting sick over. Most of the time we create scenarios in our mind that never come into fruition. Worrying about something that is yet to happen is like watching TV. It pulls you in and keeps you occupied for hours, days and years. If you are always worrying about what you don’t want to happen, how will you make room for what you do want to happen? The antithesis of worry is trust. You can’t trust and worry at the same time. It’s your choice: worry and stress or trust and peace!

  6. Update your coping skills. As you change and your life changes with you, what worked when you were twenty might not when you are forty and less when you are sixty. Maybe it’s time to learn to meditate, or maybe the answer is to exercise less. The solution might be as simple as traveling more or simplifying your life.

  7. Invest in your health plan. Exercise moderately, eat small but nutritious meals five times a day, drink 8 glasses of water and sleep at least 7 hours. Create play and fun time, and stop any habits that you know will eventually cause harmful stress on your body. Even at work, it’s important to keep up a healthy routine. Bring some bottled water and fresh fruit to snack on. Say “no” to that vending machine!

After all is said and done, the most important advice is to know thy self. What is a stressor (the cause of stress) for one, can be the elixir of life for another. Once you know what makes you happy and what makes you sad, what causes you to want to flee or fight, follow it. By being yourself and understanding your individual needs, you will stay in control of the stressors and give yourself more energy and motivation to unleash the creativity and productivity within.

Read other articles and learn more about Linda Nacif.

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