Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Managing Work Stress
> Counter immediate work stress with quick relief tactics
Here's The Short Version
If you’re stressin’ big time at work, try one of these quick stress relief tactics below. They are all things that you can do while you’re in the office today. These 5 to 15 minute methods are simple, easy and can help you decompress in a flash.
5 Minute Methods:
1) Breathing Exercise - close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply
2) Online Meditation - listen to guided relaxation meditations on YouTube
3) Get Outside - Get some fresh air outside the office
4) Smile & Laugh - do something that will make you happy
5) Stretch - give your neck and shoulders at good deep stretch
15 Minute Methods:
1) Walk It Off - take a fast walk to burn off stress tensions
2) Talk & Vent - Chat with your BFF to get it off your mind and chest
3) Color - Lose yourself in a simple coloring activity
4) Recline In Car - Take a break in your car for some peace & quiet
5) Coffee/Tea Break - Slowly savor and enjoy some coffee or tea
Quick relief methods are great for wiping away stresses, but they don’t do much for building up your stress defenses for the long-term.
You need to incorporate long-term stress immunity building strategies into your life to defend against life’s stressors. It’s a two-part strategy for mind and body.
Long-Term Strategies For The Mind:
1) Meditate Daily - Do short meditations to ease your mind
2) Practice Gratitude - Being thankful triggers joy and happiness
3) Hang Out With Friends - Spend time with your best friends
4) Make Time For Yourself - Make self-care a top priority
5) Apply The 4A Method - Use the 4A method to handle stress
Long-Term Strategies For The Body:
1) Get More Sleep - Get 7-8 hours of sleep consistently
2) Moderate Exercise - Do just 30 minutes of easy exercise Mon-Fri
3) Cut Back On Sugar - Eat less sugary foods and drinks
4) Drink More Water - When you’re even slightly thirsty, drink water
5) Eat Whole Foods - Have at least one healthy snack or meal daily
Here's The Long Version Full Story
Heads up - this is a super long article. It pairs perfectly with a cup of fresh coffee or tea since it’ll take you about 15-20 minutes to read and absorb all the goodness in this article.
So, stop reading this and get up from your chair.
Go get a fresh cup of java or some soothing warm tea.
Seriously - we’ll be waiting right here for you.
Work Life Can Be A Real Bitch
Your email inbox count is growing larger with each passing hour. It seems like for every one email you reply to, ten new ones pop up.
And of course, within those ten emails, there are probably two or three meeting invites. And you know that at least one of them will conflict with an existing scheduled meeting.
The empty “white space” on your calendar is disappearing rapidly. It’s such a valuable commodity. It’s the only time you have to yourself to actually “work” and get shit done.
Then, there’s the random visits at your desk from other co-workers, your boss and even sometimes other senior management folks. And, they’re not there for friendly chit-chat.
It’s nearly always another request, task or follow up on something that you’re working on.
“Hey, just stopping by to check in about the....”
“Yes, I’m working on it.” (sigh)
You’d be able to make some progress if it weren’t for all the interruptions.
You’re getting pulled in so many fucking directions that your head is spinning.
Maybe, genetic cloning isn’t such a bad idea. A few clones of you working at the office, a few managing home and family life and you get to keep all the fun and relaxing stuff.
Ahh, that would be so heavenly.
But, the reality is that it’s only you. You’re doing the best that you can to tackle each and every task, request and project - working simultaneously on everything all at once to move things forward.
With all the shit that needs to get done, you’re stretching yourself thin. There’s no other choice.
There are moments where you feel as though you’re in a raging sea of stress, struggling to keep your head above water. The workload feels like lead weights tied around your ankles. And, they’re getting heavier with each passing day.
On the really bad days (like really bad), you’re teetering on the edge of breaking down in tears, right there at your desk - barely able to keep it together.
You feel like you’re trapped in a vicious cycle and can’t get out. The stress is really starting to mess you up mentally and physically.
It’s becoming hard to focus.
Your mind is filled with negative thoughts.
You haven’t had a good night’s sleep in forever.
Headaches are commonplace.
Your immune system feels weak.
Is this the new normal now? Is this how life is going to be like for the foreseeable future?
The answer all depends on you.
You may feel like everything is out of your control. And there are certainly things that you definitely can’t control. However, you can take charge of how you handle and manage stress at work.
Get this skill down and you’ll free yourself from the downward spiral and find a happier, more productive state of being.
Quick Stress Relief Strategies
While it would be really nice to get a therapeutic deep tissue massage, sit in a hot tub whirlpool or just kick back on an exotic beach to relieve our stress, the reality is that we’re chained to our desk and that shit ain’t happening (except in our heads).
But, we’ve gotta do something about all the stress that’s building up inside of us. We’ve gotta open up the pressure relief valve and let out some steam. And, it all has to be doable at work.
So, we’ve put together this list of stress-busting methods here that you can do while you’re at the office during the day.
You don’t need any special accessories, gear or other nonsense. All you need is a bit of time, your computer and a pair of comfy shoes or sneakers.
We’ve broken this into two main sections: 5 minute solutions and 15 minute solutions - roughly, give or take a few minutes. So, give these a read through and then, try one then another until you find the one that works the best.
5 Minute Methods
Sometimes, stress slowly builds up within us. It just creeps up and adds layer after layer of tightness and anxiety. Other times, it’ll come on a lot faster like getting hit blindsided out of nowhere.
In either situation, you’ve probably waited way too long and you’re in the red zone. You know, that feeling where you feel like you’re gonna either blow up or collapse.
It’s in these moments that you need to release the stress asap.
1) Do A Breathing Exercise
Have you ever experienced the “perfect storm” of stress before?
It’s like when you’re working on several urgent projects all at once, your inbox is blowing up, the phone’s ringing and your boss stops by to make another request.
This is when you can feel your breathing get real shallow and quick.
It’s like you're hyperventilating. You’re breathing, yes...but really, you feel like you’re suffocating and struggling to get some air in.
This is when you need to stop whatever you’re doing and take a breather (literally and figuratively). When you slow down and deepen your breathing, you’re controlling your oxygen flow better and dialing down your heart rate.
> Inhale slowly while counting up to 8 in your head
> Hold your breath for 2-3 seconds at the top of the count
> Exhale slowly while counting down to zero
> Repeat for 3 to 5 minutes
While you’re doing this breathing exercise, think to yourself in the following way:
As you breathe in, think to yourself, “Inhaling calm”
As you breathe out, think to yourself, “Exhaling stress”
As you say this to yourself in your head with each cycle of breathing, it really maximizes the mental benefit.
If some visual guidance helps, use our breathing timer below. It’ll pace your inhale, hold and exhale breathes.
VIDEO: Silent Breathing Meditation Timer 1 Round
YOUTUBE: Cubicle Therapy
Doing these methodical breathing exercises will ease the pressure and lower your heart rate considerably.
And in a way, the slower paced breathing almost seems to slow down your crazy world, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
2) Listen To A Guided Meditation
For some of us, visuals don’t work as well as hearing things.
It’s like when you’re frantic and your BFF can see it and knows what’s happening and instinctively starts to talk to you to calm you down. Hearing that caring voice can really help out a lot.
We can do the same kind of breathing exercise in an audio-based format too with the option of video as well.
Put on your headphones and click on the video below and take a listen (or watch) and you’ll feel much better.
VIDEO: 5 MINUTE Calming Meditation (With Guiding Voice)
YOUTUBE: The Honest Guys
If you want something more mobile to take along with you, we recommend either of these meditation apps: Calm or Headspace.
Both are quite good and offer a similar variety of meditation packs on their free platform.
Headspace has a more cartoony and colorful soft interface that makes it fun and whimsical while Calm conveys more of a nature-esque flavor with visual backgrounds.
What it all comes down to is which voice or narrator connects with you more. It’s either a female American voice with Calm or a male British voice with Headspace. Both are soothing - try both and pick the one that makes you feel better.
3) Get Outside For Some Fresh Air
We all spend way too much time sitting on our asses and staring at our monitors at work. It’s really unavoidable.
When your stress meter starts to climb into the danger zone, one really good option is to just get away from it all for a few minutes.
The act of physically stepping away from your desk and separating yourself from all the paperwork, email pop-ups, ringing phones, Powerpoint slides and excel workbooks can be just the thing you need.
Getting outside of the office and breathing in some fresh air, instead of all that stale recirculated office air, can feel energizing in a cleansing kinda way. It’s almost as if with each inhale of fresh air, you’re taking in relaxation while each exhale is expelling anxiety.
Again, as you breathe, think to yourself, “Inhaling calm...exhaling stress.”
4) Smile, Laugh & Giggle
You’ve heard of the cliche many times, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
It’s definitely one of the best ways to shake off excess stress. Laughter and being stressed with negative thoughts can’t happen at the same time. It’s either or, not both.
Smiling and laughter is known to trigger the release of the feel-good hormones like endorphins. And in doing so, it helps to offset or counteract cortisol, the stress hormone.
So, when you’re stressed out, take a few minutes of downtime and look through your funny photos or videos saved on your phone. And of course, the reliable standby of YouTube - we always search for funny pets. 😉
You’ll feel a smile growing on your face and it could lead to some good laughs. It’ll be like getting an electrical charge of happiness and joy.
Who knows, you may trigger a laughter chain in your office like this guy.
VIDEO: Coca-Cola Happiness starts with a smile
YOUTUBE: Serviceplan Group
> Laughter really is contagious
> Thank goodness for funny videos
> If subway rides were this fun, we’d be on it everyday
Cracked a smile didn’t you?
Maybe, you were even holding back your giggles at your desk.
Whether it’s a smile, giggle or laugh, any of those things will brighten your mood and lift up your spirits just that little bit to wipe away some stress and help you make it through to the end of the day.
5) Stretch Your Neck & Shoulder Muscles
When the workload is piling up and you’re scrambling to get things done, your body instinctively tightens up like it’s going to get ready for a sprint.
However, the race never happens but your body doesn’t know that. It remains in that tensed up state ready to spring into action.
Being in this tightened state is not a good thing. Sometimes, it even lead to things like tension headaches.
Usually, we can feel the tightness in our neck and shoulders the most.
For many of us that sit hunched over a bit, our heads tend to droop forward a bit too. And, when this happens, it puts extra strain in our rear neck muscles. It has to support your head, which is about 10 pounds.
Imagine doing a single 10 pound bicep curl but holding the weight halfway up all day long. That’s what your neck muscles are having to contend with at the office.
Here’s a quick two minute video showing a neck and shoulder stretching exercise that you could do right at your desk, like right now.
Follow along and get a quick stretch in now.
VIDEO: How to Stretch the Shoulder & Neck : Chiropractic Stretches & Tips
When the pressure is building, so is your muscle tightness. Stretching and loosening those tight neck and shoulder muscles will improve your blood circulation and get the kinks out.
And to minimize further neck strain, try keeping your head up and level. This may require some ergonomic improvements in your cubicle including raising your computer display to eye-level, adjusting your chair, etc.
Check with your boss and HR about getting some ergonomic improvements for your workspace. Your IT department should also be able to help out with making adjustments to your computer workstation too.
Longer 15 Minutes Solutions
While quick-n-short 5 minute stress relief methods are great for those in-between moments during the workday, they don’t provide much oomph or lasting effects. They’re really only meant for relieving surface pressure quickly.
These slightly longer 15 minute methods will provide more relief and relaxation because the duration is longer and the focus is deeper. These two things really help to wipe away more pressure and bring more calm.
1) Go For A Fast Walk
For this method, it’s best if you have a pair of comfy sneakers at the office. Although you could probably get away with walking in your dress shoes, your feet aren’t going to be too happy about that. It’ll just make things worse.
Stress is the result of physiological responses to external threats and/or triggers. It’s the whole “fight or flight” thing you’ve probably heard about.
When there are people and/or things at work that are putting the pressure on you, your brain treats them as life-threatening things, even though they’re really not. It can’t make the distinction.
So, the complex excel workbook formulas, overlapping deadlines, back-to-back meetings, piles of emails all lead to tensed muscles and increased heart rate.
One way to release this pent up “fight or flight” tension is to do some form of moderate exercise. It doesn’t need to be some crazy workout session. Just a short 15 minute session is all you need.
Swap out your dress shoes for a pair of sneakers and get outside for a 15 minute fast walking session. You need to get that stress energy out of you.
What you are aiming for is to walk fast enough where you’re breathing heavier than normal but still able to talk. It’s like hustling to a meeting that you’re late for. That’s the ideal walking pace.
Go for a couple laps around the parking lot or around the building. Or, if the weather is shitty outside, do an inside stair-climbing session instead. Either are good options.
For more easy exercise ideas, check out this article about exercising at work.
2) Talk It Out & Vent
For a lot of us, getting things off our chest and minds is one of the best ways to let off some steam. We all know that talking with someone really helps even though our problem won’t necessarily get solved. It just feels good to vent.
So, grab your friend at work and ask him or her if they have a few minutes to hang out and chat. Just let them know that this is a venting session so they don’t get blindsided.
Ideally, you should jump into a free conference room that way you can talk freely and openly without disturbing others or getting eavesdropped on. Avoid the lunch room or break room as other co-workers might pop in.
When you’re able to get all those thoughts and feelings out of you and out in the open, it really feels like the burden isn’t as heavy anymore. You just feel better and your mind feels a bit more free.
If you don’t have any work buddies to confide in at the office, text your BFF and see if he or she is available. Then, hop in a free conference room, go outside or in your car to have the conversation. A little privacy can go a long way in letting you freely get it all out of your system.
3) Do Some Adult Coloring
Have you ever watched a kid coloring? They are so “in the moment” and fully into it with all their attention. It’s like they’re in another universe, totally oblivious to what’s happening around them.
They’re not thinking about or re-living the spilled milk from the morning, the argument with their sibling, the iPad being taken away, etc.
They’re fully enveloped in coloring. They’ve effectively put the world on pause.
This is a prime example of being “mindful” or “present” because they’re not thinking about anything else except for coloring. Picking the right crayons and filling in all the spaces is all they’re concerned with.
You can have this same feeling too.
Mentally “getting away from it all” isn’t going to solve any of your problems. But, what it will do is give your brain some room and space to decompress and replace all the stressful thoughts with a simple and gratifying activity.
There are tons of free “adult coloring books” available (adult as in grown-up not the other kind of “adult” - get yer mind outta the gutter).
We like coloring mandalas.
Never heard of ‘em?
Traditionally, mandalas are spiritual symbols from ancient Hinduism and Buddhism that represent the universe in some circular shape or form within a larger rectangle or square.
However, in today’s modern times, the term “mandala” has become a generic term for any geometric pattern or shape.
Click here for a downloadable and printable pdf of mandalas. Save the pdf file to your local computer. There are 30 mandalas in total - that’s more than enough to get you started.
Now, all you need to do is raid the office supply closet for some fine point colored markers or pencils, print out one of the mandalas, put on your headphones with some soothing background sounds or music and then, color away.
Within a few minutes, you’ll be like a kid again, joyfully filling in the voids with a rainbow of colors. The world’s stressors are banned from your mind - at least for now.
4) Recline In Your Car
Our open office cubicles and “shared collaboration spaces” provide absolutely zero privacy - both in terms of visual privacy and noise privacy.
But, most of us have a solution - our cars.
Most of us drive to work. In fact, according to the last US Census survey, almost 80% of all Americans drive to work alone in a car - a figure that hasn’t really changed significantly for several years.
So, why not use this asset during the workday?
Your car can be your very own personal quiet space when the madness at your desk or in the office in general gets to be too much.
Take a 15 minute break and head out to your car for some silence.
You’ve got everything you need to have your own little calming session - climate control, surround sound music and a reclining seat that may even be heated/cooled.
You may need to buy a sunshield for the front windshield to block out intense summer sunlight during the summer months.
Other than that one thing, you’re pretty much good to go.
Just head down to the car, get in, put your phone on airplane mode, set a 15 minute timer, recline the seat back and let yourself go. Breathe and relax in the silence.
5) Take A Coffee/Tea Break
Coffee - it’s the morning fuel to kick start your day and the mid-afternoon boost to get you through the last couple of hours.
You should be savoring one right now if you followed through on our suggestion at the start of this article.
Drinking coffee (or tea for that matter) sometimes turns into another one of those mindless daily tasks that we don’t think much about. It just happens automatically.
When this happens, we take it for granted.
We don’t realize how important it is until we can’t get that caffeine fix. And when that happens, we morph into some cranky, short-tempered, office beast that nobody wants to be around.
There are so many times when we’re all so busy that we just gulp down our coffee or tea as we peck away at the keyboard and toggle back-n-forth across multiple programs.
When was the last time that you treated drinking coffee or tea as the main event? Huh?
We’d bet it was a really long time ago.
Yet, drinking coffee is and should be a very soul-gratifying experience, not some daily morning routine like brushing your teeth.
Think back to that rare Sunday morning moment when it was just you and that hot cup of java, just the way you like it. Nothing else going on. You’re just sipping, relaxing, staring out the window and letting your mind drift.
Well, what’s stopping you from having that same kind of moment at work?
With the exception of being in your PJs, you’ve got all the main core elements to do this at work.
When the stress unrelenting, it’s a good idea to step away from your desk and take a short walk to the break room and get yourself a fresh cup of hot coffee or tea.
Then, instead of heading right back to your desk, take an extra 5-10 minutes and slowly smell and savor the coffee. Like really taste and enjoy it.
Go stare out an office window and let your mind wander and zone out while sipping. Your mind will thank you.
Long-Term Strategies For Building Up Your Stress Immunities
Everyone wants instant gratification or results. There’s not much patience these days for much of anything. Life is busy and there’s a lot of shit going on.
It’s the reason why instant oatmeal outsells regular and why 8-minute abs has been replaced by 6-minute six-pack.
However, there are a lot of things in life that don’t provide instant results but do provide long-lasting benefits - if you stick with it.
All of the previous ideas mentioned above are all perfectly acceptable for taking the sting out of stress quickly. They treat the superficial pains but don’t do anything to make you any stronger against battling stress over the long haul.
What we’ve gathered here below are a few of the better and more common methods to build up your stress immunities.
Most of these are common sense and maybe, a few might be new concepts for you. Either way, following these principles will slowly but surely get your stress-busting immunities to Olympic realms.
Strategies For The Mind
There’s an equilibrium of “mind and body” that is ideal. Having a physique of a professional athlete won’t mean much when the mind is mush. You need both in equal quantities.
Taking a balanced approach is the best way to establish and fortify an ideal base to build your stress immunities.
Our brain controls the release of a variety of hormones that in turn, affect the body. These hormones can trigger and affect a wide range of emotional and mental states including, happiness, depression, joy, anger, anxiety, etc.
The pressures of modern working life and family challenges often create an huge imbalance of hormones, where we are in a continuously elevated state of stress and/or anxiety.
This imbalance can really mess us up if we don’t offset it and bring it back down to normal levels.
These mental solutions will help to bring that balance back.
1) Meditating Daily
GOAL: Meditate every day for 5 minutes
Meditating is becoming more and more common now. It’s frequently mentioned in mainstream media on TV, radio, magazines, online, etc.
But for many of us in corporate America, it’s not quite as mainstream as packing a lunch to work.
This may put you off on trying meditation at work. If so, there are other non-traditional ways to meditate at work without looking like you’re sleeping on the job. We call these “Open Eye Meditations” - they're great for the office.
Otherwise, a really good basic meditation that you can do pretty much anywhere, anytime is the breathing meditation.
This is where you sit quietly in a comfortable position and focus on the feeling of your breathing.
Allow your mind to wander and race around and each time it does, just recognize any of the thoughts as just a thought and shift your mind’s focus back to breathing.
Each time you do this back-n-forth volley with your mind, you’re actually strengthening it and building up its resiliency to stressful thoughts.
The overall goal is to calm the mind down a bit. It’s not about emptying your mind of all thought and attaining “enlightenment” or nirvana - that’s impossible.
For more step-by-step guidance and meditation examples, read through this guide on meditation for beginners.
2) Having An Attitude Of Gratitude
GOAL: Practice and show gratitude once a day
What you think about consistently directly impacts how you feel internally and how you act externally. Thinking about negative and stressful things constantly isn’t going to make you a fun person to hang out with.
This doesn’t mean that you should stick your head in the sand and ignore all the bad and stressful stuff in life. We need a bit of stress to keep us on our toes and sharpen our focus at times.
We just need to balance things out with some positivity.
And to do that, all we need to do is be thankful. It can be internally within ourselves or outwardly giving thanks to others.
One easy and simple way to get an injection of daily goodness is to write down one thing every day in your notebook or notepad that you’re happy about or grateful for.
A simple little note at the top of the page is all you need.
“I’m grateful for ________________.”
Read it and if you can, say it out loud. Let it really sink in after writing it down.
That’s it - super easy.
We’ve got a whole bunch more ideas on gratitude that you can read about here.
3) Hanging Out With Friends
GOAL: Quality time with BFF at least once a month
You love your parents, husband/wife (if married) and kids (if you have them). They’re all part of your life and mean the world to you.
But, there are those days...you know what we’re getting at here...where you just need to get away from them to preserve your sanity.
This is when spending time with your BFF can be *the* best thing for you. This can be catching up over brunch and mimosas or chillin’ at the sports bar with a pitcher of beer or even just chatting on the phone.
The mental states and emotions between the two of you will ebb and flow like the tide where one could be high and the other low. You guys help to balance each other out.
Whatever the method, dedicating some quality time together at least once a month can really do a lot of good for the both of you.
Ideally, catching up together in person is always the best, but it’s not always possible. Do your best to block out the time and put it on the calendar.
4) Making Time For Yourself
GOAL: Daily “Me-Time” for at least 10 minutes
It’s hard enough at work where you’re getting pulled in a hundred different directions. But, it gets even harder with all the demands at home with family obligations.
When the only “Me-Time” you’re consistently getting is when you’re in the shower or on the toilet, that’s when you need to re-evaluate things to make self-care a top priority.
Yes, there are a lot of people depending on you. But, you have to take care of “you” first so that you’re able to take care of others.
This doesn’t mean daily 3 hour spa sessions (although that would be epic). It’s all about prioritizing some “me-time” in your daily life.
This can be as simple as a solo walk around the neighborhood, sitting on a park bench enjoying nature or sipping your fav coffee at a local cafe. For other ideas, check out this article about “me-time.”
Figure out an activity just for you and you only and protect it every day.
5) Applying The 4A Method
GOAL: Whenever there’s a stressful event or trigger
This is a strategy to manage and counteract stress. It’s called the 4A method because it uses 4 tactics to handling stress:
The first two (Avoid and Alter) are things that you can do to change the stressor.
Avoiding the stressor is pretty self-explanatory. If you can stay away from a particular stressor, do that. It’s the easiest. For example, if there’s a particular intersection light that just pisses you off every single time, take another route.
Altering the stressor is when you have the means and the ability to change it. It’s when the messiness in the garage keeps driving you up the wall and you finally get things back in order again.
The next two (Adapt and Accept) are for when the stressor can’t be avoided or altered and you’ve got to change your response to the stressor.
Adapting to the stressor is when you reframe your perspective on the stressor and reposition it into something more positive. It’s like changing your view about commuting and seeing it as fun solo time instead.
Accepting the stressor is when you accept, learn from and let go of uncontrollable stressors. It’s like having a bad boss that you’re stuck with, but instead of it stressing you out, you manage to find a way to make a game of it.
There’s a whole lot more to the 4A method that you can read about. It’s part of a bigger strategy we cover in our Stress Less E-Course. We only have enough room here to hit the key points.
Strategies For The Body
Here’s the other half of the formula - things that you can do for your body to bolster your stress immunities.
These are equally as important as the mind strategies.
Improving your mental stress immunities can only take you so far. Your mind needs your body to contribute to the effort for the best results.
By improving the physical aspects of yourself, you can really maximize and round out all the benefits of building your stress immunities.
All of these are really common sense things that have been recited to us millions of times. We don’t always stick to them consistently, but we really need to if we want to shield ourselves from the negative effects of stress.
1) Get More Consistent Sleep
GOAL: 7-8 hours of solid sleep every night
It’s been proven over many times through many studies. Sleep is a crucial part of living. Every single animal on this planet needs sleep. It’s a critical part to growth, healing and repair of our minds and bodies.
However, there’s been a long-running machismo attitude about running full-steam ahead with very little sleep - like 5 hours or less. It’s almost like a badge of honor and a symbol of strength and commitment.
We call bullshit on this - all the way.
Science proves that lack of sleep for prolonged periods does nothing but wreck our health and sanity. Put it another way, sleep deprivation is a tactic used by the military to make the captive enemy surrender.
We know that life can be hectic at times. And you may say that getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is just wishful thinking.
Again - we call bullshit on that.
We can all make more room in our day to shift and allocate another 30 minutes of sleep into our schedule. There are a lot of stupid useless things that we do during the day that just eat up way too much of our valuable time.
Take a very close look at your daily and weekly routines, tasks and habits. Reassess everything, drop the time-wasters and get to bed earlier, even if it’s only 30 minutes earlier. Start somewhere.
Read through this lesson from our Stress Less E-Course. It’ll walk you through the process on carving out more time for sleep.
2) Daily Moderate Exercise
GOAL: 30 minutes of fast walking daily
You don’t need to be a workout maniac and spend hours at the gym exercising every day to be fit. The point is to get enough moderate exercise to get all the brain boosting and health benefits.
In fact, after a certain duration, the benefits of exercise start to taper off. So that gym rat that’s spending 3 hours every day working out isn’t getting six times the benefit of your 30 minute session.
According to the US Department Of Health, all we really need is 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. This breaks down to 30 minutes daily, Monday through Friday - the work week.
What is “moderate” exercise?
It’s when you’re breathing hard but still able to hold a conversation. So, it’s kinda like fast walking. You’re at the point of breaking a light sweat and feeling warm around your face.
You can easily fit fast walking sessions at work. You can either do a single 30 minute fast walk during your one hour lunch break before eating or break it into two 15 minute sessions with one in the morning and another in the afternoon - as stress relief breaks.
We detailed out a bunch of other moderate exercise ideas on this article - check it out.
3) Cut Back On Added Sugars
GOAL: Eat less sugary foods
Sugar is in nearly everything we eat. It’s even in natural foods like fruits and veggies. It’s nearly unavoidable.
The difference here is that we’re making a distinction between natural sugars like those in fruits and veggies and those “added sugars” in processed foods and drinks.
Whatever it is that you’re eating or drinking, if it’s a processed food product and sweet, it’s got sugar in it. And, probably lots of it.
One of the worst kinds of added sugar is called HFCS or High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s really cheap to make and has got a long shelf-life so food companies use this stuff by the tanker full.
The issue is that our bodies process fructose and “added sugars” differently than natural sugars that are tied with other nutrients. In much of the cases, fructose and HFCS just gets turned into fat by our liver and then gets stored all throughout our body.
The artificial sugar highs that we get from consuming sugary products results in mental crashes and withdrawals that have us going back for more. It messes with our brain’s hormones and its ability to maintain a stable state and fight off stress.
So, the next time there’s an office cake celebration, take a sliver not a slice or even better, pass on the cake entirely and munch on some stress-busting snacks instead.
Watch what you eat and drink and replace it with something less sugary or with no sugar at all.
It’ll be really hard when you first start doing this, so start with baby steps.
For example, instead of a drinking soda, drink water with a lemon slice. Then, when you’ve conquered soda, work you way to other foods and drinks.
4) Drink More Water
GOAL: Follow Your Thirst
Water makes up about 60% of our body mass and even more in our brains. It’s a necessary element for life. Without it, we’re dead.
Water is what allows our bodies to function. It supports all of our systems including our circulatory, muscular, digestive, nervous, respiratory systems etc.
Even more simply, water is what allows our bodies to get rid of waste when we go to the bathroom.
Today, it’s pretty common to see people walking around the office with a bottle of water or at least a cup of coffee or tea. The trendy thing now is to have one of those fancy insulated metal bottles.
There are various guidelines about how much water we should drink everyday.
We’ve seen older guidelines stating that we should be consuming 8 cups a day. More recent guidelines have upped that figure to anywhere between 11 to 15 cups daily depending on your gender, age, physical activity, etc.
All of this intake isn’t strictly drinking water, it includes any water that’s in our foods and other drinks. So that morning cup of coffee, your lunch with some iced tea and the fruit snack all count toward the daily water amount.
But, who really keeps track of all that? Nobody calculates how much water is in what they eat.
When did drinking water become so damn complicated?
We’re going to make this really simple.
Just drink water when you’re even the slightest bit thirsty. Done.
Our bodies have their own internal signals of what is needed when. Feeling tired and sleepy? Take a nap or go to bed. Stomach growling? Eat a healthy snack. Mouth dry? Drink some water.
The key here is that when you do feel the slightest bit thirsty, get up from your desk, head to the water fountain and gulp down some water, not soda.
But, we often get so slammed with work or so consumed in a task that we ignore the thirst and just power through our work. Hell, sometimes, we even push off taking a piss right up until the dam is about to burst.
Don’t do this.
When you’re even the tiniest bit thirsty, just get up and take a 5 minute water break.
Doing this throughout the day will provide you with all the water your body needs. And, when your body is hydrated well, it can do its thing, keep you focused, productive and also defend itself from the stresses of work.
5) Eat More Whole Foods
GOAL: Eat one whole food item daily as a snack or meal
Today, a lot of what we all eat is processed in some way or degree. If it comes in a packaged container, it’s processed food - hands down.
Not all processed food is bad for you. There’s some good stuff out there, if you pick carefully and read its contents.
However, the overwhelming majority of processed foods have artificial ingredients and preservatives and are often high in added sugars, sodium and/or saturated fats.
Whole foods are things that have very little to no processing and excludes all the stuff we just mentioned above. Think of it 100% natural foods or as close to being in its natural state as possible.
This is like raw fresh veggies, fruits, nuts (unsalted), beans and grains. These are all packed with all sorts of good nutrients for your body. Nutrients that can boost your stress immunities.
Now, it’s unrealistic to eat every single meal with only whole foods - that’d be tough to do in our busy lives.
However, eating whole food snacks is pretty easy. Here’s a short list of some whole food snacks that you can add to your shopping list:
- Any fruits and veggies in their natural state
- Natural nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews (roasted and unsalted)
- Organic trail mix (no chocolate)
- Natural hummus dip (great with baby carrots)
- Whole grain crackers with avocado dip
There are tons of tasty bites from that condensed list that you can choose from. Start with a few and take one item to work each day for a little snack. This is an easy way to get some whole foods into your diet.
If you’re looking to up the ante a bit more, go with the field greens salads with olive oil and natural vinegar for your lunch meal. There are a variety of natural toppings you can add to it too for some more yumminess.
Managing Stress Now & In The Future
Stress has been around since the dawn of man. It has helped humans learn, evolve and survive in dangerous environments.
Over thousands of years, humans and the world we live in have changed substantially. This includes our environmental stressors. The crazy sabre-toothed tigers were replaced with unrelenting horrible bosses, mountains of financial debt, family issues and obligations, etc.
The biggest difference now is that we just don’t get much of a break. Some of our life stressors can go on for years like our school loans or bad relationships. Or in some cases, it can even be decades.
Then, on top of these long-term stressors, we get hit with shorter cycles of stress from daily, weekly or monthly things. When one stressor starts to fade away, another one pops up right on cue.
The combination of both long-term and short-term stressors results in a perpetual state of stress and thus, our bodies are constantly wound up and our minds are strained.
We don’t get the downtime we need.
And in our moderns times of go, go, go, we’re constantly trying to stay on top of things at the expense of our health and well-being.
There’s only one of you and you’ve gotta take care of you first so that you can be the super-human you want to be.
You might even want to go through our free Stress Less E-Course here. It’ll cover even more than what we’ve explained in this article with the science of stress, simple workshop activities, step-by-step methods, plus other strategies.
It’s time to put your mental and physical health as priorities on your everyday list. Use the quick relief tactics to shake off the immediate stress. And then, commit to being good to yourself with the long-term strategies to build up your stress immunities.
Do this consistently and stress will never have the upper hand in your in life.