7 Simple Ways to Melt Away Stress

relax sign on a desk
Work-related stress is a fact of life, unfortunately. A study by Harvard and Stanford researchers found that workplace stress can be as harmful to your health as secondhand smoke.

It’s not good for businesses, either. The American Institute of Stress estimates that job stress costs U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, medical fees, and more.

In short, it’s a bad situation.

However, the fact that you do, or probably will, experience workplace stress doesn’t mean that succumbing to all its negative effects is an inevitability. How you deal with it can make all the difference. Here are some strategies for keeping stress in check.

1. Track your stressors and reactions.
For a week, take note of the times and situations that trigger anxiety during the day. Pay attention to how you react, too. This helps you detect harmful patterns, which can be exacerbated by the way you respond to them.

2. Take a walk.
Sometimes the best way to escape stress is to physically remove yourself from it. If you’re feeling an excessive amount of pressure, get up and take a walk outside. Fresh air and a change of scenery can help you calm down and give you a different perspective while you think through different ways to tackle the issues you’re dealing with.

3. Make exercise a priority.
Squeezing a workout into an already packed schedule can seem like just another source of stress. But whether you run, spin, lift weights, or do yoga, the physical release and the rush of endorphins you get from exercise allow you to counteract the pressure and anxiety you feel at work. And, unlike drinking or smoking, your doctor actually approves.

4. Try meditation.
If you’ve never meditated before, don’t be intimidated. You don’t need to take a class or have special training. You don’t even need much time – even a couple of minutes of quiet, focused breathing can help you relax and center yourself. For some extra guidance and inspiration, download a free meditation app that includes both guided and timed sessions.

5. Say no.
Taking on too much work is an undeniable cause of stress. Whether you’re a manager who is afraid to delegate or an employee who is worried about disappointing the boss, turning down an assignment or extra responsibilities can feel like a bad career move.

But remember that when you overextend yourself, your work as a whole suffers. So resist the urge to take on too much, and instead focus on doing a great job managing the work that’s already on your plate.

6. Maintain a life outside of work.
If you’ve abandoned your hobbies and interests in favor of putting in more hours in the office, bad news: It’s not helping your work or your personal life. Reserve time to do things for the sake of pure enjoyment and not because they could help your career in some way.

When you have plans on the books, it helps you focus and manage your tasks so you can leave on time. Laughing, having fun, and doing something that you love melts away stress and allows you to approach your job with a fresh, relaxed attitude.

7. Get a good night’s sleep.
Whether you’re the type of person who needs four, six, or eight-plus hours a night, getting the right amount of quality sleep is crucial to managing stress. And there’s no amount of coffee, cold brew, or espresso shots in the world that is a substitute for proper rest.

There are also a myriad of health issues linked to lack of sleep, like increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and weight gain. A study by the University of Rochester found that the brain is doing critical work while you sleep, which includes clearing away toxins responsible for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.

As for the immediate consequences, inadequate sleep increases stress and has a negative effect on creativity, problem-solving skills, and basically every function you need to kill it at work.

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