As a recovering workaholic, I can easily get sucked back into the grind and stress. If I haven’t completed my to-do list, I set my alarm to a painful early morning hour to finish up the project. My mind is in “rush mode” and body enjoys working in the flow. So I produce a lot in a short amount of time. Yet, in doing so, the heaviness of stress sits on my chest. For many years, I convinced myself that my type-A personality fueled my success. Yes, some stress motivates performance, though research shows continual long-term stress harms our health. So, as a part of the Wellness Work Series, I have outlined a few healthy stress reduction / stress management tips for busy individuals and especially working parents.
During my corporate working days, I was far from zen. I thought I was too busy for a bathroom break and over scheduled my days so I always rushed from meeting to meeting to events to home. I blamed the constant stress pulling at my insides on my highly caffeinated beverages. I also fooled myself into believing that I needed several Diet Dr. Peppers and pretty coffee drinks to keep my energy high. I had too much to do and my solution was to find more time, by sleeping less.
Little did I realize how my “over-achieving” tools, were making me more stressed and sick. I made work my priority, figuring I could handle my own health because I went to the doctor. Yes, going to the doctor is important, but according to Harvard School of Public Health, how we treat our bodies daily helps keep its system functioning efficiently. It can also prevent chronic diseases and/or side effects related to them.
As a motivational speaker, a healthy lifestyle writer, a content contributor, a mom, a wife (and the list goes on,) I currently play many roles professionally and YES, I sometimes fall into old habits. I also think about what it would be like if I went back to my old job. How would I handle the stress? How would I keep my stress level down, so that I could prioritize my health, while also producing for my employer? After much thought and research, here are the guidelines I would follow and share for those working parents, busy individuals and anyone who balances a multi-faceted life:
1. Sleep 7-9 hours a night
I’ve never been much of a sleeper, but have been told by numerous doctors and read in publications that sleeping regularly will improve my overall well-being. I really challenged this because I could execute well on only a few hours regularly. However, I did this with tons of caffeine and adrenaline that have the ability to increase cortisol levels, which is toxic for tumor growth. Plus, the caffeine and adrenaline often made me crash or become lethargic. If I was sluggish at work, I noticed myself hiding in my office all day. If not, I’d actually get up more and walk around. Simply put, sleep is necessary for overall health. Plus, when you’re tired, you get crabby, annoyed and down-right stressed more easily.
2. Clear Mind to Refocus/Desk Meditation
We often start our day with a long list of to-dos and an inbox filled with emails. I’ve been told that taking a few minutes to set a daily intention helps prevent stress and increases focus. It shouldn’t be hard to create a quick morning affirmation that helps us think positivity for that moment and throughout the day. We can find a few moments at work to close the door and meditate in an office or sit still at a desk and concentrate on the breath for a few minutes. It’s been challenging for me to commit to regular meditation, though the overall well-being and health benefits including stress prevention should make it a daily necessity.
3. Practice Breathing Techniques
Believe it or not, we all have the tools to balance ourselves. While it seems easy to breathe, there are a few techniques (pranayama) that can be practiced to revitalize our bodies. Alternate nostril breathing can add peace to an afternoon. It’s also a distressing tool. I’ve tried this technique and found it calms me instantly.
4. Quick Exercise Breaks
When I was young, fun, single and living in NYC, I shared an office with a colleague who was a health enthusiast. Knowing that our lives were filled with long work hours, important networking happy hours and mandatory client dinners, we thought we didn’t have time to workout and be healthy. So what did we do – we did it in the office. We created our own “Water Wars” – we raced each other to see who would drink the most water in a day. The loser had to do 10-50 push ups every hour. We were onto something. Push ups led to squats and lunges, which also led to tight abs and quads. The quick break also led us to let off some steam. There’s no reason why we can’t all take a few minutes, whether it’s at a gym, in our bosses office or outside in the parking lot. The point is – be creative in when, how and where we find a little time to de-stress through exercise.
5. Stress Management Office Tools
Do you love the beach? Keep one of those zen garden’s on your desk. Enjoy art? Buy an adult coloring book and put in your work bag. Love technology? Try playing a Happify game, using a Headspace meditation app or reading #SpritJunkie notes in your office.
Any additional tips? What are your favorite stress reduction tips?
OR meet us in person – Hire Caryn Sullivan to inspire your organization or team to embrace positivity, resiliency or wellness in the workplace.
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