Total Read Time: 6 Minutes
Work Stress: Par for the Course?
No matter your work sector or job title, work stress can seem like it’s just part of the job. Although we all have stressful moments, they don’t have to ruin your day. Get your Zen hat on and then get ready to learn to relieve that stress building in your shoulder blades.
Sweat It Out
Few activities are better at reducing work stress than exercise. Depending on the type of stress, I find that resistance training or endurance cardio can work better for me. Everyone is different here, but experiment and find what works best for you! Personally, when I’m feeling stress from an infuriating circumstance at work, lifting weights is the best medicine for me. Additionally, visualization during a lift is a great way to increase weight and number of reps. Funnel that anger into something productive; something which betters yourself.
If I’m feeling an overwhelming feeling of general stress, then endurance cardio works better for me. If I’m just doing a quick workout, I’ll run about 2 miles or row 2,000 meters on my Concept 2 rowing ergometer (The price is a little high, but I’ve found that there is no better rower that will stand the test of time. Go to any gym. I’ll eat my shorts if they have any other rower. I use the Model D version and love it). If it’s a particularly stressful day, I bump it up to a 3-4 mile run or a 4,000+ meter row. I find that anything less doesn’t release those feel-good endorphins and help to reduce my cortisol levels (stress hormone).
If you’re looking to kick your butt in the gym and don’t have a lot of time, then consider HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). HIIT can take a number of forms, but my personal favorite is something you might have seen on The Biggest Loser: Battle Ropes (pictured above). Prepare to sweat! If you glazed over when I said Battle Ropes, here’s some sample exercises for you to try.
Disclaimer: Consult a physician before beginning any new workout or diet plan. These methods help me to reduce my work stress. Your mileage may vary.
Have a Brew
If you’re thinking at this point that having a brewski is a good way to de-stress, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Alcohol is barely even a temporary solution to work stress. Often, you’re only hiding from deeper problems and trying to force your body to forget about its current struggles…for a short time. When you awaken after a night of drinking, how do you feel? Less stressed? Probably not.
Instead, brew a cup of green tea. Green tea naturally comes loaded with L-theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress. I’m particularly fond of green tea with peppermint or spearmint. I find that after a cup my mind is refreshed and I’m able to attack a problem with renewed focus. The heat from the hot tea also relaxes me. Bonus! For a regular cup of tea, I like Stash Moroccan Mint Green Tea. It’s super cheap on Amazon: typically about $0.15 per bag when you buy a 100 pack. Tea is one of the cheapest drinks around and there have been a number of studies that drinking green tea has an array of health benefits. Who says being healthy has to be expensive?
Mental Health Days
When’s the last time you had a day off from work? Does it feel like your weekends are taken up by errands and work around the house? If you’re feeling the stress, take a mental health day. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It means you care about your mental state and you need a minute to reset. That’s all. When you do go back to work, you’ll come back with a sense of purpose and an order your mind has likely not seen in a long time.
What do you do on a mental health day? As little as possible, if you’re me. Everyone’s different, but you should do something you wouldn’t normally do. I’m constantly in motion. Whether I’m crushing it in spreadsheet-land, cleaning the house, running errands, or anything else, I’m a fast walker and my mind is always spinning with ideas. It might sound like a wonderland, but it can be a terrible burden at times. Everyone needs to find their ‘off’ switch sometimes. Take a day and do nothing. I hear there’s some good stuff on Netflix. If you live near a mountain, hit the slopes or take on a new trail for a day hike. Get out of your routine and get out of your own head for a bit.
Are you likely to find nirvana on a day off from work? No. Probably not. Can you take a step on your journey to a more peaceful state of being? Absolutely!
Meditation isn’t just for hippies or eccentric CEOs. The average person has a lot to gain from sitting down and trying to clear their mind. If you’re like me when I first started to meditate, find a free guided meditation on Youtube and have it playing in the background. Some of the ones I’ve used have been kind of hokey, it’s true. The best thing you can do is to try and let the words wash over you and suspend those cyncial thoughts. Let yourself be taken in by it and watch as you gain a new perspective. If guided meditation isn’t for you, take fifteen minutes and sit in silence. Every time a thought enters your mind do your best to return to nothingness. I like to put on nature sounds or the Zen Sounds: Healing Sounds app on my Echo device. It’s completely free and is extremely relaxing. No words, just comforting sounds.
Back to Nature
This next one might sound dumb to some people, but I promise it’s backed up by real science! There have been scientific studies which find that getting into nature reduces cortisol levels for most people. What if you don’t live near a forest, mountain, or beach? What if you’re smack dab in the middle of the concrete jungle? There is also some evidence that having photographs of nature around the desk, house or apartment is enough to help reduce cortisol levels.
Pro Tip: Leave a TV tuned to the Chromecast home screen. Beautiful images of nature will scroll past and fill your home with calm.
If you’re worried about your power bill, there are cheap canvas photos of nature you can find online that do the trick just fine. I have a number of them in my master bathroom, transforming it in to a rainforest in my imagination. I also installed a light that doubles as a bluetooth speaker. Just connect to it with your phone. Now I can listen to nature sounds during a shower or bath! There’s few better ways to reduce work stress than this.
When it comes to work stress, embracing family time can be a great way to cope. Make time for a family dinner, sit with your spouse and watch a movie, or just be lazy together. Proximity to people who care about you is perhaps more important than anything else on this list. If you don’t have any family, embrace friendships. If you don’t have any friends, scope out a meetup in your area. Make some!
There’s not much that a meal and quality time with family can’t fix, unless your family is a source of stress of course! Again, YMMV here, but family time is usually a safe bet.
Ultimately, recognize that almost every source of stress is temporary. If you’ve tried each of the above methods and you still suffer from crippling work stress, you might need to consider other options. For instance, are you in the right position? Can you transfer to a department within the same company to ease your burden? Or, do you need to walk away entirely?
Sometimes we take on too much. If this sounds like you, then I have a book that can help: Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss is an eclectic mix of life advice from some incredible minds in their respective fields. However, there are also sections that help teach you how to say ‘no.’ We don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything. Sometimes, what looks like an opportunity is actually a threat to our happiness and stress levels. Learn to say ‘No!’ For a full review of Tribe of Mentors, click here.
If your work stress is causing you to feel anxiety and/or depression, there are a number of resources that can help.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” -Criss Jami
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Sometime all you need to relax is a good book. If you’re looking for suggestions, head over to my book club!