With the demanding workload business professionals have to put up with in between the regular 9 to 5 routine (and sometimes even longer), stress is inevitable. It’s not actually always a bad thing.
Research says that experiencing manageable amounts of stress can have powerful benefits, as it can help improve alertness and performance and boost memory.
However, although exposure to moderate levels of stress can be good for us, too much of it can be detrimental to our emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. Here’s what you can do to keep your cool despite the overwhelming workload.
1. Take Deep Breaths
The term “relaxation response” coined by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson in the 1970s is defined as the physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension).
It can be induced through a number of ways such as breath focus, yoga, and meditation. Though you may not have time in your busy schedule to do yoga and meditate, one quick and simple relaxation technique that will help you disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations is taking deep breaths. A more advanced term for this relaxation technique is breath focus.
There are only two simple steps in doing this technique. First, find a quiet and comfortable place to relax. You can do it by sitting or lying down. Take a normal breath. Then, a deep breath–breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth or nose–whatever feels more natural.
After doing the previous steps, you can now proceed to a regular practice of controlled breathing. As you’re positioned comfortably with your eyes closed, you can blend your breathing with relaxing imagery or think of a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.
Do this technique everytime you’re feeling intense emotions that might lead to anger and get you to make decisions you’ll regret; when you’re feeling overwhelmed with piled-up tasks; or when you’re feeling nervous before a presentation. If you have more time, you may want to try these more advanced relaxation techniques.
The more frequent you practice them, the greater it will help you reduce stress in the long run.
2. Get Organized and Prioritize
It may be hard to think clearly and be able to decide things when you’re swamped with work. You think trying to finish off every task you can get your hands on might get you to finish your tasks quickly, but it will only leave you more stressed.
You’re getting things done but at the same time, you’re worrying about how many are left and how you’re going to finish them all. That’s why it’s important to get organized and prioritize.
Clear your head and get a piece of paper or open a checklist application on your laptop. Then, list down all your tasks for that day and sort them according to their level of priority. By doing this, you’ll be able to finish your tasks more smoothly, and without the clutter in your head.
3. Have a Change of Scenery
When you feel stuck on a particular task and you feel like you haven’t been able to do anything productive for the past 30 minutes, you’d be surprised at how going somewhere else to work can do wonders to your mental wellbeing. It can be in a café or at the park, as long as it gets you away from the four walls of your cubicle or office space. This change of scenery can help you regain your focus and allow you to be more productive.
If you work in a place where employees aren’t allowed to freely go out anytime, you can just wait until the next break to take a walk or eat outside. This will make you feel more refreshed and ready to take on your tasks when you come back.
4. Focus on Your Wellbeing
Indeed, prevention is better than cure. By taking the time to focus on boosting your health and wellbeing, you are lessening the impact of future episodes of stress. Though these might not guarantee complete immunity from it, it will surely give you the strength you need to deal with the overwhelming tasks at work.
Eat healthy. You can handle stress better when you’re in good shape, that’s why it’s important that you eat healthy all the time. People have different ways of dealing with stress, and some do it through binge-eating and turning to comfort food such as pizza, ice cream, and chocolate.
Apparently, these are the worst possible choices because they will only make you feel more tired, on edge, and stressed than you already are. Rather than binging on your “comfort” food, opt for fruits and vegetables or high-fiber, carbohydrate-rich food instead.
Also, avoid eating for the purpose of relieving stress. This tends to turn into overeating and will only result in guilt. Look for other ways to distract yourself instead, such as taking a quick walk or talking to your colleagues instead.
Get physical. It’s no secret that being stressed on a regular basis can be detrimental to one’s health. It’s inevitable, but there are ways to lessen its impact, such as exercise. A simple stretching exercise every now and then or running every weekend can contribute a lot to improving your physical wellbeing.
Exercising pumps up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins, which can instantly boost your mood after a long day’s hard work. Regular exercise will also help you shed daily tensions and forget the day’s irritations, resulting in a clearer head and a calmer, more optimistic disposition.
The thought of having to get out of bed, putting on your sweatpants and running around the neighborhood or hitting the gym might seem like too much work for most people.
Get adequate sleep. It’s common knowledge that an adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night to function well the next day. However, survey findings show that stress may be getting in the way of quality sleep and 43% of American adults have reported that sleep causes them to lie awake at night. This lack of sleep results in a stressful day the next day, and again, difficulty sleeping at night. It’s a vicious cycle, but it can be broken.
You can start by identifying your stressors, or the things causing you to be stressed out. Once you’ve identified them, you can do something to minimize or completely eliminate them. Spending time and laughing with your loved ones is also an effective way to decrease your stress levels and shed the day’s tensions.
A great American philosopher once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” No matter how overwhelmed you are with work, know that you don’t always have to be a victim. You have the power to overcome those difficulties; it’s just a matter of managing it.