Meet Garret, who has a unique way to tackle stress for National Stress Awareness Month. He’s an associate news producer who ditches workplace stress with the little guy currently striking a yoga tree pose (Vriksasana) on the edge of his desk. The metal dude is an Acrobot. It’s a magnetic little toy man (click here to check them out) which is designed to have pretty amazing flexibility as it’s made of a bunch of joints.
It’s the kind of flexible and loyal pal that might be hard to acquire in the intense 24/7 land of news. But Garret manages. Hey, the bot doesn’t talk back, stays put for pure entertainment and is easily manipulated for de-stressing purposes. It’s just one of those unorthodox stress busters that we don’t necessarily talk about. But it’s part of his ritual to take a chill at work.
Stress in the workplace is so commonplace that companies are looking more seriously into EAPs, Employee Assistance Programs or well-being initiatives that are designed to help employees curb their stress issues. You can read more about that in my Forbes.com post: Employee Stress on Radar for National Stress Awareness Month.
Here are 5 Daily Rituals to Beat Stress at Work!
1. Morning Intention & Reflection: Try to get up a few minutes early than the rest of the household. Upon awakening, take a few deep breaths before beginning your day. Before the Tv goes on, or you hit the e-mail, listen to some relaxing music or read an inspirational passage to start your day on a positive note. If you have time to exercise or meditate, make this part of your morning routine.
Set a simple intention today without any pressure to accomplish any huge task. It might simply be to stay focused during an important meeting, to connect on a personal level with a colleague or to focus on improving your attitude about a work issue, without personal judgment. This is an individualized approach to starting your day within your own work-life fit. It requires an assessment of what your immediate needs are in your work-life merge.
2. Workday Triage & Check-In: Upon arriving at work (or for some on their way to work during a commute) take a few quiet minutes for yourself to get grounded. Be present enough to stop the outside distractions and take a few deep breaths before tackling the wave of information that comes your way. Then begin your workday triage.
You will likely have a list from the day before of what didn’t happen and what you need to make happen. Review the list and then add any additional items that need attention. Before you grab a pen and prioritize, think about the one item on your list that you have been avoiding. Do that first if you can, and get it out of the way. Then, make 3 columns.
- Level 1 Priority: Just as a nurse would assess a patient and determine if resuscitation is needed, ask yourself, “Does any one project or item need immediate attention to thwart potentially disastrous consequences?” No matter the time and resources needed, it must be done today within a deadline, or something or someone is gonna get their head chopped off. Are other projects or people relying on you for immediate completion?
- Level 2 Priority: In medical speak this is known as an “emergent” situation. This is an unstable situation that will deteriorate if not attended to. What can you do to keep this baby afloat until you can completely tackle it? It might require some resources and time that you can allocate at some point in the day. Be honest with yourself. Is this just an item that you are putting off because you don’t want to do it? Can you get part of this project done today?
- Level 3 Priority: A nurse might call this an “urgent” situation. This requires a number of resources to complete. There is a “drop dead” time, but it isn’t today. HOWEVER, it requires some attention today because it might be more complicated. For example, a project that requires a number of meetings, phone calls or research to accomplish.
Finally, try to schedule a half hour of white space in your calendar twice a week. You don’t have to have an agenda, just getting quiet can allow innovation to emerge.
3. Lunchtime Release & Refuel: You might have limited time to take a break, so make use of it with a conscious approach. First, notice how you feel physically and emotionally. If you are sore from sitting all day long at a computer move around a bit. Stretch, do some shoulder and neck roles if you don’t have any physical conditions that would impede that. Get away from your desk and get your blood flowing, it has a positive impact on the immune system. Do some sort of physical exercise, yoga or breath work (if you don’t have a heavy meal). This will energize you.
As you exercise, come up with a nice releasing mantra or affirmation. For example, “I am releasing what I don’t need. I am cleansing my body and mind of what gets in the way of my progress.” Be aware of what you are eating. A heavy lunch, processed foods or too much sugar can be an energy killer. But if you eat the right foods for your body, you’ll feel refueled. Try to limit your e-mail and technology access at this time.
4. Mid-Day Stress-Buster: This is where Garret comes in. The last third of the workday can drag on, and can thwart motivation. The end is in sight but the tasks to be done seem too daunting. That creates stress and then has you either working like a hamster on a wheel, or just staring into your computer screen. If you’re going to stare for a bit, make sure it’s worth looking at. Take a music break or what I call a YouTube break. Just switching things up a bit and taking your mind off work can get your creative juices flowing.
There are great meditation or screen savers that have a calming effect. A workplace toy or totem is a great daily distraction and can take you down a notch, giving your mind a quick breather from the daily workplace chaos. Stop for a moment and just take a few deep breaths. If you hit a brick wall on an idea or project, try mind-mapping, read an inspirational passage, grab an affirmation or mantra and repeat it a few times. This activity brings your mind from the strenuous beta wave mindset – to the more relaxed and creative alpha state. It triggers the release of stress-reducing hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
5. Completion:Before you leave work, head back to that to-do triage list. Being responsible and in integrity is important. Most likely you did a good job hitting the first level of triage. Assess the situation but don’t be so hard on yourself. There is always tomorrow and likely, no one is gonna die if you have to put something off for the next day. For the brave at heart and at work, try grabbing one last task that you really don’t want to do. You don’t have to do it, just look at it. Can you make it happen a little easier tomorrow?
Finish your day in silence. It’s hard to manage the work-life merge, but it’s time to come down a bit. As for taking work home with you, that has to be your call. But you can navigate that last minute call from work on your way home. Check out my post: 5 Ways to Navigate the Weekend Call From Work.
How do you reduce your stress during your workday? Any fun secrets to share?
Please join me on twitter @JudyMartin8 and if you really need to take it down a notch, throw me your e-mail and receive my e-book: 7 Keys to Reduce Stress in the Work-Life Merge, along with a track from my meditation CD: Practical Chaos: Reflections on Resilience. Click here for more information.