Stress is common in today’s work environment. There are plenty of tools to help de-stress outside of work, such as meditation, yoga, taking a few days off to re-charge at a retreat, or something as simple as listening to the sound of waves before bedtime.
These methods, however, won’t help in the long run, as they are not addressing the cause of stress—the work itself! Instead, try these five great life hacks to limit your work stress:
A typical day usually includes problems that needs to be solved. An order that’s late or lost, a client disputing an agreement, and problems with a coworker; anything can go wrong on a given day and there is very little you can do to be prepared for these crises, since the nature of a crisis is that it comes as a surprise.
What you can do, however, is manage the daily tasks that you do know you have to do. Set aside enough time to complete each task to limit the subsequent stress. This may be easier said than done, especially if our daily to-do-lists are too long.
Prioritize! Remember the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, which dictates that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you work in sales, for example, you may find that 20% of your clients generate 80% of the revenue. Translated to your workday, this means that 20% of your efforts cause 80% of the payback.
So, don’t waste precious time!
If the daily workload is too heavy, and your checklist seems to have grown despite a 10 hour workday with no breaks, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed and lose motivation. Without some inspiration, it’s hard to get anything done at all.
Daily tasks are best managed through a checklist, but as Entrepreneur warns, to-do lists tend to get longer and longer to the point where they’re unworkable.
Instead, any important activity, conversation, or appointment needs to have a time assigned to it. Keeping records of the time spent on activities, conversations and appointments will help you understand how much time they consume.
You will see what you can get done during the day and, related to the Pareto principle, how much of your precious time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations, and actions. Once you have your tasks under control and see the concrete results of your efforts, the sense of being overwhelmed disappears and your motivation will return.
Yes, in order to get anything done at all, you do need to be rested. Don’t let anything come between you and your seven to eight hours of sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, some meditation might help, or maybe those tapes with the sound of waves will come in handy after all.
But, most importantly, don’t keep your phone or any other artificially lit screens like televisions, iPads, and iPhones near you when you sleep, and try not to expose yourself to these devices right before bedtime. Your room should be dark, because light sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake.
When it’s dark, your brain produces the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin, which is released into your blood. Naturally, this would occur around 9:00 p.m. When the melatonin levels in your blood rises, you begin to feel sleepy.
The levels of melatonin stay elevated for about 12 hours, so by about 9:00 p.m. the levels of melatonin are barely detectable making you feel awake again. Bringing light into the room when you get up helps to lower the levels of melatonin, and it’s important not to waste the precious morning hours. Embrace the new day!
Also, remember that your working day starts the night before. Prepare what to wear, know where to go, and give yourself enough time in the morning. Waking up late causes unnecessary stress and sets the tone for the day.
Don’t take work home with you if you can avoid it! Most of us can’t fully separate work from our personal time; if you are waiting for an important customer to call and they do it after working hours, you might even have to choose between accepting the call or losing a client.
Maybe you work with people in different time zones—there are as many reasons to stay available 24/7 as there are interruptions eating into your private time.
What you can do, though, is create windows of private time when the phone is turned off. Enjoy dinner with your family, let yourself fully focus on your Saturday golfing or Sunday biking, your morning exercise, evening meditation or other personal relaxations without interruptions. Unless you have a scheduled call, it can wait a few hours.
Know When to Call It Quits
If your workload is still too large despite your efforts to keep up, you might have to just say no. A study describes how long-term stress can cause irreparable damage to your brain. That’s because high levels of cortisol, which is a natural hormone in your body that’s levels rise when we are stressed, can lead to memory lapses as we get older.
Short-term increases in cortisol are critical for our survival because they make us more alert to fight danger. But, when the levels stay high for a long period of time, they cause damage like digestion problems, anxiety, weight gain, and high blood pressure, and perhaps most worrisome, they affect our synapses. Synapses are the connections that help us process and recall information.
As we age, long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear. If your level of stress is at the level where you are starting to find it difficult to remember recent events, and you are unable to change the environment in which you work, this may be the time to consider changing work.
How do you cope with work stress?
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