As the summer draws to a close and the economy shows few signs of a major upturn, the stresses and strains of work can easily close in around you. Stress can be a killer, both literally and in creative and productivity terms. A small amount of stress may get the adrenaline pumping and push you on to completion of a project but long-term stress is bad for your health and bad for your business.
Although I know the pressures of job roles and businesses differ and sometimes there does seem no alternative, there are a handful of quick-fire ways of minimising the impact and lowering your stress levels that you should always keep in mind.
1. Drink plenty of water
It may sound odd, but low fluid levels can compound stress levels dramatically. Ever wondered why on hot summer afternoons you struggle to pay attention? Dehydration doesn’t have to mean you feel parched, it relates to the fluid levels in your body and it’s ability to service your essential organs. Nature has a clever way of slowing things down if fluid is limited, so your brain, etc work slower as a natural way of using what it has more efficiently.
By making sure you drink plenty of water, regularly and throughout the day, your ability to concentrate will improve, your blood pressure will drop and your stress levels will feel much lighter. What’s more don’t be put off by the increased need to go to the toilet. Regular calls of nature also create regular breaks in your work pattern and will help ease the stress by just changing your focus for a few minutes, and very likely improve your productivity as a result.
2. Take deep breaths
Again it may sound odd, sitting in a crowded office doing Darth Vader impressions, but by lengthening the time you inhale and exhale your body will calm itself down. The central nervous system plays a big part in your fight or flight natural reactions and taking more time and focusing on your breathing can help regulate that and combat any in-built panic. Again concentrating on your breathing, even for just a couple of minutes will also help clear your mind and focus briefly and accordingly help your productivity when you resume your work.
3. Have a happy focus
The tradition of having photos of your family and friends scattered around your desk has not continued throughout the years without reason – and the reason is not to ward up unwanted approaches from work colleagues. Photographs of family, friends, holidays and places allow you to escape from stress, even if only for a few seconds.
They can act as a stimulus when you are up against things – a kind of carrot if you complete this task in hand – and by triggering off good thoughts when you look at them, they can go a long way to conteracting stress while you are sat at your desk. Use these photographs as our happy focus and your stress-levels should begin to ease.
4. Use music to mellow your mood
If you remember the Disney film of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs you will recall that the daily grind is a lot less depressing if you “Whistle While you work”, and that part is not a fairytale. Music can again provide a happy focus and a new stimulus to deflect a stressful situation. Shifting your focus to a different physical sense also helps your body re-align itself.
What’s more if you can’t play music out loud, using your in-built instrument to create a melody can also help with those breathing exercises. Again it is no coincidence that many practices of meditation use humming as a way of relaxing. It not only helps re-focus the mind but also helps regulates your breathing into longer exhales and inhales. So if all else fails, try humming a lengthy set of notes to yourself.
If all else fails, get moving. Stretch out, get blood flowing around your body in the right places – not just that pounding in your head. Go for a walk, stand on one leg, do some exercise. It doesn’t need to be strenuous just enough to get your body moving. When you exercise more oxygen is delivered to your brain, and your body also produces natural chemicals that make you ‘feel better’. Getting up will help your body serve your essential organs better, break the stress spiral and make you feel a whole lot better.
That’s just five simple stress-busters, but there are many more. What do you do to combat those bad afternoons?