In many cases, the origin of the stress is something that cannot be changed immediately. Therefore, finding ways to help maintain good mental health is essential. There are many ways to be proactive in dealing with stress. In the workplace, you might try some of the following as suggested by the Canadian Mental Health Association:
Laughing is one of the easiest and best ways to reduce stress. Share a joke with a co-worker, watch a funny movie at home with some friends, read the comics, and try to see the humour in the situation.
Learn to relax, take several deep breaths throughout the day, or have regular stretch breaks. Stretching is simple enough to do anywhere and only takes a few seconds.
Take charge of your situation by taking 10 minutes at the beginning of each day to priorize and organize your day. Be honest with your colleagues, but be constructive and make practical suggestions. Be realistic about what you can change. (From: Canadian Mental Health Association, "Sources of Workplace Stress" Richmond, British Columbia) Read more.Weekday stress busters
Monday: Organise your work habits
- If mornings are rushed, try getting up five or 10 minutes earlier to add to your time. This can make a big difference to how your day begins.
- Set your priorities before work gets under way. If you make a list be sure you make it realistic and do-able. A large leftover list will not help your stress levels.
- If you can, work a little on large or daunting projects each time. This stops procrastination and gives you a sense of accomplishment. You may get so absorbed that the job gets done a lot more quickly than you had imagined.
- Most of us have times during the day when we feel sluggish - work out what your lower productivity time is and schedule easier tasks during that time.
- Get into the habit of setting aside time for processing email. If you don't want too many interruptions, switch your phone on to voice mail and make some time for calling people back.
- Build some time into your daily schedule for unexpected events or interruptions.
Tuesday: Create a harmonious work environment
Stress can result from our physical environment - too much noise, too much mess, a disorganised workspace, too much stimulation, not enough stimulation. Find the cause of the stress and take action. You may not be able to get rid of the problem entirely, but you can do something.
- Organise your workspace. Make time each day to put your desk in order -clearing the clutter helps to put your thoughts in order too.
- Have fresh flowers or a plant in your office.
- Pictures of peaceful scenes, photos of loved ones or a framed print or poster by a favourite artist will give your workspace a feeling of warmth.
- Check your light source - you may need a desk lamp - or get more natural light by shifting your desk around.
- Is your computer station set correctly? Do you have a comfortable chair? (Don't forget to take frequent short breaks if you are using a computer constantly). A cushion for your chair may add to your workday comfort.
- Talk to your supervisor or someone you trust/ organise a meeting to discuss problems that arise from stressful work practices or relationships.
Wednesday: Shrink your worries
Worries have a way of building up and leaving you with a general sense of anxiety and discomfort. Do something with your worries rather than allowing them to intrude on your day-to-day living. Here are some simple suggestions to tackle worries:
- Question the worry - whose problem is it? Is it really yours?
- Talk it out - share your problem with someone you trust.
- Write it down - writing often helps to put things in perspective.
- Exaggerate it - picture the worst that can happen. How likely is that?
- Distance it - imagine a few years from now. How much will it matter then?
- Attack it - take the first step to solving the problem.
- Breathe it away - inhale deeply, exhale with a sigh a few times. Let your tension go as you breathe out.
Thursday: Self -talk and stress
We are all in constant dialogue with our brain, commenting on how we feel about things. Self-talk generally helps us to make sense of our world and helps to get our thinking straight.
Some self-talk is negative, reinforcing beliefs and attitudes we may have held for a long time.
These inner conversations are often 'global', eg. 'This always happens to me' rather than particular, eg.
'This isn't too good, but tomorrow things will look different.'
- Perfectionism is a self-talk 'biggie', as is comparing our performance with others. Be kind to yourself and set realistic goals and standards.
- If you have a major attack of the 'I should haves', stop, take a deep breath and change the self-talk tape to one that is fair on you.
- Cultivate the habit of thinking "what's right with the world?" instead of focusing on what's wrong. Remind yourself daily of the people and things in your life that are good.
Friday: Quick and easy stress busters
Handling stress isn't just about dealing with big problems - if you handle small frustrations they won't build up into big hassles. 'All work, all day' is a great formula for stress and doesn't add to productivity.
Here are some things you can do at any time of the day:
- Monitor your breathing. Most of us don't make good use of our lungs. If you start to feel stressed or anxious take several deep breaths -close your mouth, inflate your lungs and fill your stomach with air (imagine it's a balloon). Breathe out slowly.
- Breathe in, thinking the word 'peace', pause, then breathe out thinking 'calm'.
- Take short breaks - go for a walk, listen to music, daydream, take a tea-break, a lunch-time even!
- Check your posture. Slouching is tiring. Stretch your limbs, take the stairs instead of the lift, and programme some exercise into your day, even if it's only five or 10 minutes. There is growing evidence of the beneficial effects of even mild exercise on mental health.
- Avoid the temptations of too much caffeine or junk food when you're stressed.
- Share a laugh with a colleague - laughter is one of nature's best stress busters.
Original material provided by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. Edited by everybody, June 2005.