As you rush around this holiday season trying to meet personal and professional demands, it can be difficult to focus on maintaining your own health and sanity. But there are several easy ways to feel less stressed, which also will help you to be more productive stay physically stronger. (With the predictions of a longer and more severe flu season this year, we need all the help we can get.)
A University of Washington study finds that those who mediate are able to stay on task longer, improve their concentration & memory, and reduce their stress. Researchers believe that by meditating, you can strengthen your attention muscle. Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes that teach mindfulness at work and the Dayton Police Academy even teaches yoga to recruits to help them cope with on-the-job stress. When you're feeling stressed, try to find a quiet place at work to meditate for a few minutes, even if it's your car or an empty conference room.
While firing off 100 emails a day may make you feel productive, it probably isn't doing much to ease your stress. Instead, pick up the phone to talk to the person, or even better, have a face-to-face discussion. The social interaction will do more to alleviate your tension and the physical act of walking to another floor will be healthier for you. A recent Northwestern University study finds that we actually spend more time sitting every day than we do sleeping.
Load your desk drawer with fruit and nuts. Before you leave for the day, have a healthy snack so you’re better able to drive past a fast-food restaurant on the way home. Just eliminating one unhealthy meal a day can help you better maintain your well-being. Try to avoid walking by the vending machine at work filled with unhealthy choices, and if the breakroom is stocked with junk food, try eating your lunch in a park. A CareerBuilder study finds that more than half of full-time workers eat lunch at their desk once a week, another unhealthy habit to try and break.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s 100 steps to the bathroom and 50 steps to the water fountain. If you add in all the trips you make to the conference room, the mail room, human resources and the boss’s office, you’ve added some mileage. Putting on a pedometer every day to keep track of your steps can be a motivating way to get you moving more each day. Aim for goals such as 3,000 steps daily, then try to eventually work up to 5,000. How many steps can you get in while waiting on hold or while you wait for a meeting with a client?
Studies have shown that most people need at least seven hours of sleep a night, and if you’re getting less than that you can impair your physical and mental health. A lack of sleep can cause you to release more stress hormones and weaken your immune system. (See above reference to the wicked flu season headed our way.) Just because you can load up on Red Bull and coffee to stay awake does not mean it’s a good idea. As with meditation, try napping in your car or a quiet room if the boss says it's OK. Set your phone alarm to alert you after about 20 minutes.
Processing music uses some of the same brain pathways as memory, studies show, and students listening to Mozart were found to have higher test scores. While some workplaces have reduced streaming Pandora (it takes up too much bandwidth,) ask your boss if it’s OK to listen to your iPod sometimes at work.
Finally, don’t further add to your stress if you don’t follow one of the above suggestions. Sit down and come up with a plan for better health and less stress, and don’t worry if you get off track for a day or so by indulging in junk food or not exercising. If you have a plan in place, though, you can resume it the next day and not feel like you’re in an endless cycle of stress.
How do you reduce your stress during this busy season and maintain your health?