We’ve heard it all before: exercise, good nutrition, and proper sleep lead to better health. But what can we do to destress ourselves directly in the moment when we feel stressed in the middle of the work day?
Often, wellness involves adding things to do to our already busy to-do lists. While most of us can’t run away from our schedules and attend a yoga session when we’re in the middle of a work-related problem. But there are several small (yet effective) measures you can take that will help you destress in the moment.
1. Acknowledge Your Stress
The act of acknowledging feelings is an important part of regulating emotions and attaining excellent emotional intelligence. Research shows that when we name our emotions, they have less effect on us. For example, when we take a step back to say, “I’m stressed and frustrated right now,” we become distanced from those negative feelings. This distance allows us to concentrate on actions we can take to make our workday less frustrating (such as enlisting a coworker for help). When we regulate our emotions properly, we become better leaders and employees.
2. Practice Deep Breathing
You’ve probably read about the benefits of deep, focused breath at least once before. For the chronically stressed, hearing the phrase “take a deep breath” can even cause feelings of irritation; after all, a deep breath never checked anything off anyone’s to-do-list. So can it really reduce stress? The short science-backed answer is yes.
Deep breathing slows your heart rate, increases oxygen to your brain, and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, all of which work to promote a sense of calm in our brains. Though our to-do lists don’t get any shorter, a few minutes dedicated to breathing can make our minds less busy and help us regain the ability to focus on things other than our immediate worries. We break away from panic mode and shift into calmer, more introspective thinking, ultimately gaining the ability to work on our daily tasks with more intention and concentration.
Try the season approach to deep breathing:
- Breathe in for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for four seconds.
- Breathe out for four seconds.
- Hold for four seconds.
Repeat as many times as you like, or try out more breathing strategies for relieving stress.
3. Move Your Body Regularly
Most of us know that more exercise can decrease stress, but we don’t always make time for a full-on workout. When your goal is to find immediate relief and destress in the moment, any kind of physical movement will do. At least once an hour, take a few minutes to stand, stretch, grab a drink of water, or walk around your work area.
Similar to deep breathing, physical movement helps increase our blood flow to the muscles and even increases our natural endorphins. Moving your body regularly can you destress in the moment and keep your stress levels in control throughout the day. Moving regularly also has health benefits such as improving circulation, reducing high blood pressure, and preventing cardiovascular disease.
4. Make Time for Fresh Air
Exposing ourselves to nature can lower our blood pressure, reduce the production of our stress hormones, and even help relieve pain in our bodies. Nature is incredibly healing, and taking just a few minutes out of our work day to go outside and breathe fresh air can relieve stress and improve focus. If you live or work somewhere without access to green spaces, opening the window and breathing in fresh air—and looking someplace other than your device’s screen—can help bring calm at any moment.
5. Hydrate and Rest
Rest and hydration set the tone for the day. If you aren’t getting enough sleep the night before, your body won’t have the tools it needs to regulate your stress hormones. Lack of sleep and dehydration can also negatively impact your immune system, which means more sick days and a reduction in productivity. Prioritizing rest, hydration, and nutrition prepares you for managing stress, ultimately increasing your productivity.
6. Connect with your Supervisor
If you are having trouble managing stress, reach out to a supervisor for support. Employee health has a direct impact on productivity, so your supervisor has a vested interest in cultivating a workplace that promotes employee wellbeing. Your supervisor can help you develop a plan for managing stressors and improving time-management. They can also help evaluate the workload on your plate, identifying areas where colleagues can help out or adjusting tasks to better help you grow.
These tips are certainly not the end-all be-all of stress management, but keeping them in mind will be handy for those days where we feel a buildup of frustration. They’ll help you focus on the present, which might help calm the rest of your day as well.