23 October 2008

Easy, Now: De-Stressing Tips for Work and School

I've been really stressed at work for the last week or so. I've had additional duties at work assigned to me for an undetermined amount of time to assist another department. I'm still enrolled in two courses of night school, and my annual bout of SAD just kicked in, so I'm feeling pretty overloaded right now.

There are lots of things you can do to keep your stress from overpowering your life. I'm doing what I can to keep my mood up. Here are 10 of my tips:

1) Take daily vitamin supplements to keep my B-complex, C, D, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and potassium levels up. Deficiencies in these vitamins and minerals have strong links to depression.

2) Eat lunch away from the office at least three times a week. It doesn't mean eating out; I bring a sandwich or a salad. When I get bogged down in work, it's easy to feel chained to the desk. This gives me a chance to breathe and regroup.

3) Don't skip meals. This is one I struggle with because I tend to skip breakfast. Right now, I make sure I eat breakfast, whether it's a bowl of oatmeal or a breakfast bar.

4) Do stretches at work. I make a point of joining the office in the morning stretching sessions which are part of my company's health & wellness program. This allows me a chance to relax in case I was stressing out on the drive to work. It also gives me a chance to have a laugh with the people I work with, since these are light-hearted sessions.

5) If you have to vent, do it before you get home. Don't vent work-stress once you finish the drive from work. I try to say something good about my day once I get home, so I'm not focusing on the negative parts of my day.

6) Treat yourself once a week. When I can't afford something big like a spa treatment or a shopping spree, I give myself a pedicure or take a relaxation bath.

7) Stop for two minutes to laugh and smile. Smiling is proven as a weird biofeedback thing to improve your mood. An eight-hour work day has 480 minutes; laugh for two of them. I set an alarm, but I take two minutes in my busy workday to joke with a friend.

8) Use a massage tool. You don't need to be a pro. Throw it in a desk drawer and use it on your back or calf muscles while you're on the phone. I found a great body massager at Winners for $8 that is double-sided and feels great.

9) Make a list of the tasks you want to get done for the day, and mark them off when you are done. A five minute list lets me see my accomplishments for the day so I don't feel like I didn't getting anything done.

10) When you are feeling overloaded, talk to someone. Try to talk to your supervisor. You don't need to feel like you are whining if you say what parts are dragging you down, and it gives everyone a chance to evaluate the workload. If you can't talk to your supervisor, ask your HR department if your company has an employee assistance program. Companies put these in place to help, not to judge. I used my company EFAP program to get help with treatment for depression one winter when my SAD was out of control.

When it feels like the world is weighing on your shoulders, just remember to breathe. It's important to think about how things will change from day to day. Stress can produce results, so work through it, and try not to be negative to the people around you. Tomorrow is full of possibilities, and things can improve.

If you can't say something nice, say nothing. Negative attitudes at work are contagious. Apart from spreading the cranky around, you may cross the wrong person. As Sigourney Weaver's character said in Working Girl, "Today's junior prick is tomorrow's senior partner."

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