Stress management – 10 habits to quit to feel less stressed

Stress management – 10 habits to quit to feel less stressed

Stress is a natural part of life for many folks and long-term stress can cause lots of emotional as well as physical side effects. But while it might be common, it isn’t something you have to live with.

Don’t resign yourself to spending your entire career in a constant state of worry and fraught nerves.

There are a great variety of lifestyle choices than you can adopt to combat stress, such as regular exercise, mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Equally, there might be some things in your life that you need to cut out in order to prevent stress interfering with your work and home life.

Not all of them are obvious. Here are ten everyday things you can cut out to see an instant reduction in your stress levels.

#1 Caffeine

Let’s start simple (although not necessarily easy!) by looking at your caffeine intake.

High coffee levels are a natural part of life for a lot of office staff. But if you knew the effect caffeine was having on your brain you would think twice about your next trip to the coffee machine.

Caffeine increases production of hormones including adrenaline, cortisol, and dopamine in the brain, which are then released as part of the body’s natural stress response.

In that sense coffee is “liquid stress” in that it has the exact same effect on you- increased attention and energy in the short term, leading to a crash in energy, mood and focus down the line. It also stops you being able to switch off at night, interfering with your sleep patterns and making you feel on edge all day.

Coffee in moderation is perfectly fine. A cup in the morning to freshen you up is one thing. Needing three cups to stop yourself feeling like a zombie is something else.

#2 Screens before bedtime

Checking your phone, watching TV or reading an e-book on your tablet right before you go to sleep is a bad idea.

Electronic screens produce lots of blue light, which mimics the sun’s rays in its effect on your brain. Blue light stimulates wakefulness by reducing the levels of sleep hormone in your brain. This makes it harder to switch off at night, reducing your ability to sleep, reducing your ability to cope with the stresses of the day and increasing your likelihood of reaching for the coffee tin.

Try switching to some activity that doesn’t involve looking at a screen for the last hour before bed, such as reading an old fashioned paper book.

You can also find apps and programs for your phone and computer which filter out the blue light.

#3 Taking work home with you

If you’ve had a stressful day at the office or if you haven’t got as much done as you hoped, it can be tempting to stay a few extra hours or to keep on checking your emails and worrying about work once you’re home.

The issue here is that your body and brain need time to unwind at the end of the day. Not only that but your family won’t appreciate you focusing on work when you’re with them, and stress at home is far worse for your mood than stress in the workplace.

Create a definitive and clear work life balance.

As soon as you step through your front door, flip a switch in your head- you’re not in work mode anymore, you’re in home mode. Which means spending time with the family. And spending time alone relaxing too!

#4 Being rushed in the morning

Getting up five minutes before you need to leave for work sets you up for a rushed, stressful day. You’ll arrive at your desk bleary-eyed, flustered and without having had breakfast, probably without half the contents of your bag that you need for the day.

Twenty minutes of extra sleep in the morning won’t do much for you. Neither will hitting the snooze button again. A nice relaxed morning routine will let you properly prepare for the day and get to work in the right frame of mind to work. And if you’re really missing those extra minutes in bed, just go to bed earlier!

#5 The panic response

We all know the feeling of having a work-related bombshell dropped on us in the form of new assignments, impossible-sounding deadlines and grand strategies from the top that essentially just amount to more work for you. We can’t always control our work environment, but we can control how we respond to it.

Instantly entering into panic mode and disaster management is a sure fire way to make a stressful situation even worse.

Conversely, if you take it on the chin, take a few deep breaths, tell yourself “no big deal” and get to it, your stress levels will be far lower. And being less stressed means that your ability to focus, deal with challenges and stay motivated will soar. That’s the magic of changing your response to things- the less stressful you view something as, the less stressful it turns out to be!

#6 Procrastination

This is a big one, isn’t it? How much more could you do if you if you fully applied yourself in your working hours instead of putting off the difficult seeming tasks and dawdling away time doing nothing? Kicking the procrastination habit unquestionably makes you a more efficient worker.

So how do you do it?

Create a distraction-free work environment by clearing your desk and, if you can, working somewhere quiet where other people can’t draw you into their dramas.

Procrastination is the brain’s way of keeping you from doing things that seem impossible, so set realistic goals and break your daily tasks down into manageable chunks. Learning some simple breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to keep your thoughts in-the-moment is also a great idea.

#7 Not taking time off

This one might seem obvious but for plenty of people the idea of actually taking time off work is unthinkable- “I can’t take time off! The whole office would collapse without me!” Deadlines and feelings of guilt can lead you to feel like holidays just aren’t an option.

However much it may feel like it, your office will continue to run just fine while you’re gone. And all those important tasks will be right there for you to pick up on when you get back.

You have those holiday allowances for a reason- use them! Take time to relax and get away from it all and you’ll be fresher and more motivated when you get back.

#8 Saying yes to everything

Learning to say “no” to things is an incredibly valuable life skill, especially for Personal Assistants and people in similar job roles. Often the source of stress is taking on too much responsibility and not having time in the day to meet all your expectations, or not feeling like you can decline when superiors ask you to do something.

Entire libraries have been written on how to say no firmly but gently. It boils down to respecting yourself enough to put your needs first once in a while and being secure enough to know that people will still value you as a person even if you don’t instantly say yes to every demand placed on you.

#9 Multitasking

The great myth of office work is that doing five things at once will get everything done quicker. Multitasking might make you look like you’re some kind of admin superhero but the reality is that it won’t help your productivity or stress levels. The brain has a very specific number of things it can handle at once- going over this limit means your focus will deplete and your memory for each individual task will go out the window. You’ll spend more time flitting between tasks saying “now, where was I?” than actually getting things done.

So forget about working on assignments on your laptop during meetings or typing up reports while on the phone to clients. One task at a time is the way to go.

#10 Negative talk

Negative thoughts and self-talk have a big impact on the way you operate. Be careful how you speak to yourself and how you mentally approach tasks as constant internal grumbling can easily translate into stress and inefficient working.

The same is true of external grumbling. Moaning about your superiors or unreasonable work demands might be part of the culture in some offices but all that negativity takes its toll on your mind. So be careful about who you lend your ear to, and what opinions you let your colleagues influence you with.

Don’t let negativity get into your head- focus on the positives and you’ll be able to steer clear of stress.

Author Bio 

Angus Munro is a registered clinical psychologist and director of Angus Munro Psychology in Sydney. He excels in evidence-based therapies for a comprehensive range of Emotional and psychological challenges. One of his passions is engaging, educating and helping people work through all manner of mental health issues to live their best life.

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