Picture This: Your alarm clock didn’t go off so you jump out of bed to get ready for work in 5 minutes. You spill your coffee while sitting in a traffic jam and, once you get to the office, you find out your co-worker has called in sick so you have double the workload. To top it all off, your printer is broken. How do you collect yourself and de-stress in order to manage the rest of your day?

Obviously this is an extreme scenario, but Americans spend more of their time at work (and going to/from work) than any other single activity in their lives. For many people, work = stress, so it is imperative to have effective ways to manage the pressure.

Sources of Stress:

Workload – According to Forbes, the average business professional has between 30 and 100 projects on their plate. Nowadays, employees are interrupted an average of seven times per hour and distracted over 2 hours a day! With a mile-long to-do list and constant external distractions, it can be quite difficult to get everything done. For some, not completing their daily tasks can be traumatic enough, without adding any other stressors.

Co-workers -Unless you work from home, chances are that your co-workers contribute to your stress levels. Just as you can’t pick your family members, you can’t pick your co-workers. You may get along with most of them, but every workplace has at least a little bit of drama, and that inevitably causes stress. Dr. Judith Orloff gives you a number of techniques to free yourself from negative people at work.

Work/life balance -The majority of today’s parents are working parents, and it can be hard to find the time to effectively juggle all of your responsibilities. It’s even harder not to let stress from one area of your life carry over to another.

Effects of Stress:

Reduced Productivity – When you’re stressed,you are not a 100% effective employee. Stress increases distractibility and decreases creativity, which means your work will take longer to complete and may not be as high-quality as you’re capable of.

Physical and psychological symptoms -Stress in the workplace not only affects your psychological health, but it can also cause physical health problems as well. In fact, according to Stress.org, “In New York, Los Angeles, and other municipalities, the relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so well acknowledged, that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is assumed to have a work related injury and is compensated accordingly (including heart attack sustained while fishing on vacation or gambling in Las Vegas).”

Dealing with Stress

It is important to take time to find your “Zen Moment” in the middle of your workday. Don’t be afraid to shut your office door. Your co-workers can go 10 minutes without asking you a question, and you deserve a moment to yourself! Make the most of your Zen Moment by employing some of the stress-reducing techniques below.

Meditation – The benefits of meditation are abundant, but the #1 benefit to work is this: meditation makes you more productive, by teaching you how to resist distractions. While there are many ways to meditate, don’t be concerned about the specific technique. It’s not as important HOW you meditate, just that you DO meditate. You can find several methods online, like this simple one that won’t overwhelm those who are new to the practice.

Breathing -It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not listen to cues from your body. Taking a couple of deep breaths then exhaling slowly can quickly work wonders for your overall stress levels. You can also take a moment to relax each part of your body, starting at your head and making your way down to your toes. Let any negative thoughts melt away from your body each time you exhale. This simple breathing technique and meditation will have a big impact on your overall attitude during the work day.

Music -Listening to music during the workday, even as a quiet background soundtrack, can have a very relaxing effect. There are even specifically-geared stations, such as Relaxation Radio, on Pandora (where you can create a free account) so with one click you can start a relaxing playlist and get to work. According to Psych Central, “this genre of music can slow the pulse, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress hormones. As music can absorb our attention, it acts as a distraction at the same time it helps to explore emotions. This means it can be a great aid to meditation, helping to prevent the mind wandering.“ If classical music is not for you, try listening to up-tempo music that will reenergize and make you feel more alert and optimistic about the day ahead.

Stretching – Unless your office budget allows for ergonomic chairs, chances are that your posture is suffering at your desk. In addition, work stress can cause muscle tension and before you know it, your back is sore and tight. Try these 3 simple movements to get some “Deskercise.”

  1. Stand up and sit down without using your hands. Repeat.
  2. Shrug your shoulders up and down, then nod your head like a “yes” and then side to side like a no. Repeat until the tension in your shoulders is reduced.
  3. Do a torso twist, looking over one shoulder and then twist and look over the other shoulder. Repeat and then congratulate yourself for these important deskerercises.

Get Moving -If your brain is feeling like it’s going to burst, try taking a quick walk around your parking lot or, if you don’t have time, walk to your co-worker’s office rather than sending an email. Getting up and out of your chair a few times each day will give you a much-needed change of scenery from staring at the computer screen.

Taking a Break –There’s a reason why jobs provide lunch breaks – employees need breaks from working all day! If you absolutely must eat at your desk, take a few minutes to watch a funny video or listen to music instead of checking emails. While you may think that going, going, going throughout the workday will help you get more done, it actually does the opposite. To increase productivity and keep your energy levels up, you do need to take shorts breaks during the day.

Positive Post-its -Post-its don’t just have to be for keeping reminders about your workload; try leaving positive notes for yourself to improve your mood throughout the day. Write a few words to remind yourself of something you’re grateful for, or something you’re proud to have accomplished. You deserve little mental rewards. Focus on the positive, not the negative as much as possible.

< strong>Support Systems -You probably spend more time with your coworkers than many of your friends, so it makes sense to create a support system within the office. Turn “small talk” into “big talk” and take the time to get to know your colleagues – you may be surprised at the result! Having workplace friends to eat lunch with, take walks with, or even just vent about the boss with, can significantly improve your day. Share your stress with someone, and you’ll both reap the rewards.

Benefits of Meditation

By taking the time to find your Zen Moments throughout the workday, using any of the techniques suggested above, you will soon find that you are distracted less and therefore a more productive employee. Next time your alarm clock fails, or your coffee spills, or your printer breaks, you’ll be more equipped to handle the situation by taking a deep breath and tackling the issue with a level head. For more tips about reducing stress and increasing happiness, consider joining an online community to keep you on track. A little reminder to “keep calm and carry on” never hurt anyone!

By Sarah Burton, as published in Forbes on 21st November 2014

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