Work has been so stressful for me lately. By the time I clock out in the evenings, I'm exhausted and I hardly have enough energy to eat dinner. I've had more than my fair share of bad days recently, and I started to lose sight of my personal and professional goals. I would come home every evening and ruminate on everything that had gone wrong for me that day, turning things over and over in my mind.
I realized that I was letting this stress take hold of me, and my mental and physical health started suffering for it. I was turning into a grouchy, tired person who was struggling to get through one day at a time. And instead of taking advantage of my time away from work and focusing on opportunities to do things I enjoy, I was letting my stress at the office control my downtime, too.
Something had to change, and I eventually instituted a few rules for myself. First, I decided to stop thinking about problems at the office while I was at home. I gave myself twenty minutes after work to vent and feel my stress, and that was it. After that, if stressful thoughts started creeping in, I locked them into a mental box, only to be taken out again on the drive into work.
I also started prioritizing my leisure time. I stopped wasting all of my time off in front of the TV, and instead I focused on reading, writing, and hiking with Bryce. I made it a point to cuddle with my pets for a few minutes every day, and I planned and prepared healthy meals to keep me going throughout the week. By paying attention, engaging in activities that feed my soul, and concentrating on self-care, I started to feel more like myself again.
Out of the office, I was regaining my true self. But at work, I was still having a hard time. My heart pounded on the drive in, and sometimes I would feel nauseous as I walked in the door. I was getting frequent headaches, and my skin was still breaking out. Even though I had improved so much at home, it became obvious that I needed to find a better way to cope with stress while I was actually at the office.
It was difficult for me to find ways to focus on self-care at work. My busy schedule didn't leave a lot of time for breaks, and I knew my boss would be less than thrilled if I took an hour or two to get a massage or go to a yoga class in the middle of the day. I had to find ways to incorporate self-care into my responsibilities.
Small steps and mindfulness were the answer to my problem. By doing little things to enjoy my time at work and make my own well-being a priority, I started to feel the tension in my shoulders and the knot in my stomach relax. And instead of going through the motions, I really focused on these activities and used them to improve my mood and my stress levels. Soon, I found that even when difficult situations came up, I was able to handle them more easily and they no longer weighed on my mind the way they used to.
If you're having a difficult time at work, here are five ways to de-stress and make yourself a priority. By taking small actions, you'll feel lighter and happier both at home and throughout the day.
It's no secret that scents are powerful. You can harness this power by using aromatherapy. Of course, it's not feasible for most of us to burn a candle or run a diffuser at work, so pick up some lotion in a calming scent like lavender or bergamot and keep it on your desk. When you notice tension taking over, rub some lotion on your hands and wrists, and gently inhale the scent. You'll notice a difference almost immediately. This ritual is a great way to center yourself in the midst of a stressful situation.
2. Take a walk
If things are starting to get heated or you're feeling overwhelmed, one of the best things you can do is to take a break from the situation. Get up and go for a brisk walk around the building or the block. Give yourself a quick break to gather your thoughts and calm down while you enjoy some endorphins from the exercise. You'll probably find that you're not only more collected, but that you're more productive when you return. Research shows that employees who take frequent breaks are more efficient and creative than those who try to work without them.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking water will help keep you sharp, energized, and healthy. There is loads of evidence out there espousing the benefits of drinking lots of water, and you should heed the advice. When you're dehydrated, you're not functioning at your best, and that's bound to make any situation more stressful. Headaches and fatigue will melt away as you sip, and you'll feel better when you get home, too. See my post here for tips on how to drink more water.
4. Bathroom meditation
Since you're drinking all of that water, you're bound to be visiting the restroom more frequently throughout the day. If you notice yourself feeling scattered and overwhelmed, take a few extra minutes while you're there to get centered. Stay with me! So many offices (including mine) are open-plan, which helps with collaboration and creativity. Unfortunately, it also makes it difficult to have a quiet moment to yourself. Why not take advantage of a place designed for just that? When you're finished with your, ahem, business, suit back up and take a moment for mindfulness. Do a breathing exercise, focus on a mantra, or just be quiet and think of nothing. Your co-workers will be amazed at the difference in your attitude when you return.
5. Treat Yo' Self
Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford have the right idea when it comes to making your work day more of a treat and less of a chore. Pick something nice (no matter how trivial) and do it for yourself. For me, it's having a nice manicure. There's something about pretty nails that just makes me feel happier and more put together. When I'm feeling stressed, I can look down at my fingers and recall those awesome feelings, so I make it a point to get my nails done regularly. Maybe it's a new bag or a book, or even having a stash of your favorite tea on hand. It doesn't even have to be fancy or expensive - it just has to make you feel good. When you get in touch with those feelings, do your best to hold on to them. Even the biggest splurge isn't so ridiculous if you take advantage of it in this way.
Do you have any tips or tricks to keep stress at bay? How do you take care of yourself at the office?