My Strategies for Killing Stress

July 10, 2013

Work-related stress has risen 10 percent since last year. That increase seems to make sense in an improving economy; in recent years, getting/keeping a job was priority number one. Now job quality occupies our time. We’re worried about compensation, heavy workload, co-worker disharmony, long commutes and a slew of other issues. Whatever the reason, 8 in 10 of us are stressed out by at least one problem at work.

As a leading stress magnet (ok, maybe I manufacture some of my own), I would like to offer up some of my work-to-home stress eradication methodologies. These tricks have helped me minimize what my kids refer to as my post work near-psychotic behavior (teenagers…got to love ‘em). Here goes:

1) Speaking of kids (roommates, boyfriends or husbands also)…get away from them. They selfishly want to tell you about their day. They ask unreasonable questions like “Have you seen the mate to my sock? Or, “Can I borrow your shampoo?” What’s wrong with these people?

Well nothing really. They are the sane ones. I find that when I first come home from work if I escape for just a few minutes, whether it is to change my clothes or read my emails, I can more rationally go back and face society, or my family, as the case may be.

2) Take control. After a day at the office where others contributed to your stress, do something at home where you are in total control. Maybe it’s cooking; maybe it’s de-cluttering your desk. Whatever it is, you own it- that’s a nice change of pace.

3) Do something Zennish. This is coming from someone about as far from Zendom as possible. I fail at yoga, slow breathing makes me fall asleep, and I’m a skeptic when it comes to ying, yang, and feng shui. But research has made it pretty clear that meditation does help people relieve stress. Even the U.S. Army is incorporating it into its training programs. Since I don’t understand the whole nature of meditation, my un-zenlike mind has boiled it down to this: do something for several minutes which doesn’t allow you to process and analyze information. This absence of brain activity will give the stress centers in your body a rest. Reading won’t do that, watching video/tv or listening to music doesn’t do that either. But counting your breaths will, because you’re performing a rote activity that doesn’t allow your brain to multi-task. You could also recant a prayer, reiterate “She Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore” or recite the alphabet about a hundred times. After ten minutes of “non-thinking” I feel a little calmer. I’m sure my advice is bordering on Zen-heresy but it works for me.

4) Exercise. This isn’t new advice for anyone, but if you currently work-out in the morning, you might think about re-ordering your routine. Any chance you can work out later in the day, after you’ve experienced most of your work stress? Sleep is a natural de-stressor, so exercising in the morning won’t give you as much benefit as it would at lunch time or after work.

5) Drink. It can be coffee, tea, wine, seltzer, whatever…I feel actually sitting down, and not working, with a drink means I’m relaxing. Of course drinking too much alcohol or caffeine or soda can increase stress levels (since we needed something else to worry about) so make sure your intake is stress-reducing, not stress-inducing. But otherwise, relax and enjoy!