Falling down? Five ways to combat office stress

Struggling in a high stress job environment? Follow these golden rules to tackle workplace tension, writes Sudeshna Ghosh.

We’ve all been there – long days at the office full of back-to-back meetings, deadline dramas, and a never-ending to-do list.

No matter how successful you are, or how much you love your job, stress in the workplace is something most of us have to handle, in varying degrees. And considering the average person spends more than 90,000 hours in office during their lifetime, that’s a lot of stress to deal with.

The trick is to manage the stress so it doesn’t get the better of us. Here’s how:

Switch off

One of the most important things you can do to combat stress in the office is what you do outside it. Hard as it might be in this age of perma-connectivity, make it a point to switch off, both electronically and mentally, once you leave work.

It’s OK to make an exception when there’s a real need, but unless there’s a looming deadline, or an impending crisis that needs you to be available, make yourself unavailable after-hours –
this means disabling work emails on your phone, resisting the impulse to log on to your laptop at home, and yes, not answering calls unless you know it’s urgent.

If you set your own limits clearly, while ensuring you meet and exceed expectations when in office, people will not only get used to it, but will also start respecting you for it eventually.

Eat to beat it

Certain foods help in lowering stress levels, so make sure to include them in your daily diet.

These include sweet potatoes, which contain the amino acid tryptophan, which boosts levels of feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain; asparagus, which increases dopamine, a chemical that relaxes the brain; and Omega-3-rich foods such as nuts, which help decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Foods rich in magnesium, such as black beans and oats are also excellent, as they help relax the muscles and lower blood pressure.

A cup of chamomile tea before bed also helps to ensure good sleep.

Manage your workflow

Stress is usually caused when you feel overwhelmed – which, with the inbox constantly pinging, the phone always ringing, and people stopping by your desk to chat, is an inevitability.

According to Forbes, interruptions in the modern workplace can go up to seven times an hour, totalling up to 2.1 hours worth of distractions in a day. How you react to this multi-pronged bombardment is, however, up to you.

Break up your day into smaller snack-able bits, so you can ensure you stay focused, and thereby, achieve more, in less time, resulting in a feeling of accomplishment at the end of
the day. Ergo – less stress!

Set aside some time at the start, middle and end of the day for emails, and disable auto-alerts the rest of the time. You could apply the same technique to phone calls, but if you’d rather not then keep calls short and targeted, explaining politely to the other person that you’re in the middle of something (the damage would have already been done by taking that call, however).

You can follow a similar practice for desk-side drop-ins, as long as you make sure to catch up with them later – and you’ll see the frequency reducing.

Get active

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but the advice is invaluable.

Physical activity is proven to reduce stress by boosting the production of endorphins, also known as happy hormones.

Whether it’s a gym session or a gentle walk, whatever fits into your lifestyle is fine. To truly maximise the stress-busting effects of a physical workout, choose yoga, which works on body and mind both to be a truly stress-relieving.

Give yourself a brain break

In an environment where you’re constantly pushing yourself, it’s critical to pause every now and then, to combat rising stress levels, and boost productivity. Getting up from your desk,
walking around and stretching, and doing some deep breathing only takes a few minutes.

Besides, it’s not only alright, but actually good for you if, after a few hours of sustained work, you give your brain some relief to transport yourself into a happier headspace – be it in the form of Facebook browsing, holiday planning, or some friendly chatter.