We live in a fast-paced world, and trying to keep in step can be stressful. We think we need to push ourselves harder in order to produce and be of value. Unfortunately, too much stress is not only debilitating and dangerous, but ultimately unproductive. Finding ways to reduce stress makes you healthier, happier and infinitely more effective in your work. Here are a few tips:
1. Make time for pleasurable activities, every day. Don’t forget the me-time. The hot bath. The gym. Spending time with people you love. Reading a novel. These are the simple pleasures that make life worth living. Schedule some into every day.
2. Make lists. People who keep written lists tend to be more organized in general and feel less overwhelmed. And smart listmakers know they don’t need to complete everything on their list every day. For an added stress reliever, after you’re finished making a list, go back and cross off all non-essential tasks. The sense of relief will be palpable.
3. Break down large projects into actionable tasks. When you take the time to formulate a simple step-by-step plan and execute each component one by one, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment at each stage of completion.
4. Delegate. Sometimes we think it’s easier and faster to do something ourselves rather than show someone else how to do it. But taking the extra few minutes to train someone else to handle the task will free up a tremendous amount of time later. Delegating empowers others, too.
5. Regroup. Whenever you feel tense, it’s time to take a breather. Get up and stretch your legs, get a breath of fresh air. If you’re in a particularly long meeting, suggest a five-minute break. Your colleagues will silently cheer.
6. Prioritize laughter and fun. Stressful work environments are often cheerless and overly serious. A sense of humor is like an oasis in the desert. Lighten up, and add a little fun to the proceedings.
7. Unplug. When you prepare to tackle an important task, silence your phone and turn away from your e-mail. If you have an office, close the door. Distractions cause mistakes, and mistakes cause stress.
8. Do your best, but leave well enough alone. Perfectionism is a negative habit in disguise. The most stressed-out people tend to have abnormally high standards, and are usually too critical of themselves and others to be truly effective. Perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators, because they fear their efforts won’t be good enough.
9. Fuel yourself properly. The busy-person diet of low-nutrient fast foods, candies, cookies, cake, donuts and other eat-on-the-run fare will run you down. Take the time to seek out more wholesome foods that keep your vehicle running in tiptop shape.
10. Make time for exercise. In addition to its well-documented physical health benefits, exercise is a master stress reliever. As little as 15 minutes of continuous movement distributes oxygen throughout the bloodstream and releases endorphins, resulting in increased energy, mental clarity and an overall feeling of well-being.
Bottom line: When you spend the time to take good care of yourself, you improve your overall performance, at work and in life. A little organizing and prioritizing is a great first step.