Whenever my elementary teacher told us we were having an assembly instead of PE, I got excited. I was relieved that instead of wondering whose team I’d be on, or how slowly I’d run a mile, I‘d get to watch a movie or hear someone sing about not doing drugs. But there was one particular assembly that didn’t have singing characters, and I spent most of it trying to speed up time through sheer force of will. The assembly was about stress — and I figured that subject would never apply to me.
Fast forward about 20 years and a career in corporate America, and I realize how wrong I was.
The truth is, continuous, uncontrolled stress can lead to pretty terrible things, including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression and anxiety. Especially if you notice any of the symptoms that Mayo Clinic describes, it might be time for a work-routine overhaul.
Here are five ways to decrease stress and improve productivity that you can implement right now.
60 seconds of deep breathing
Whether you’re sitting in your car after lunch or preparing to get some shuteye, deep breathing can help relax your mind and body. The Help Guide website has details on how to master the art of deep breathing, but don’t overthink it. Just make taking 60 seconds’ worth of conscious, deep breaths a part of your daily routine, and you’re likely to see the benefits before you know it.
Get plenty of sleep
I recently read a post about how people in business try to one-up each other when it comes to how little they sleep. Guilty. I guess it’s because sleeping less seems to make us feel more productive — but that couldn’t be more false. Actually, sleep keeps our brains firing on all cylinders and is responsible for other important stuff like “muscle repair and memory consolidation.” Adjust your schedule to sleep more. You can do it right now by planning to hit the hay just 15 minutes earlier than you did last night. Continue to tweak your sleep schedule until you wake up mostly un-aided by an alarm clock.
Schedule to avoid interruptions
Repeat after me, “I’m in control of my schedule.” While meetings might be important, too many disparate appointments peppered throughout your day can lead to decreased productivity. Take a cue from Chris Lema and move your meetings into blocks. Then, with the big uninterrupted blocks of time you’ve created for yourself, ravage those tasks like there’s no tomorrow.
Endorphins help fight pain and stress, and walking produces endorphins. It seems too good to be true, but walking 30 to 60 minutes a day will help decrease stress and improve productivity significantly. And, the best part is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Small bursts of walking over lunch or between tasks can help re-fill your stockpile of endorphins.
Get outta Dodge
Sometimes, the best answer is to leave. Get out of the office. Leave work early. Remove yourself from whatever stressors are causing you grief. But take care not to replace your work time with another stressor. Instead, take the opportunity to cruise by the gym, take a walk, play with a pet, or practice some hardcore deep breathing. Often, the best solution is to make space to approach the problem anew the next day.
This is how I slay the stress dragon … what about you? Have any tips or tricks? Throw your tip in the comments!