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Ways to De-stress at Work

by Thaomy Lam - November 4, 2015

Your phone won’t stop ringing. The emails keep pouring in. The client wants it ASAP. Of course, you can’t get to any of it because you’re booked in meetings all day.

To say that the workday can get stressful is putting it mildly. When you add on a commute, running personal errands and fulfilling social obligations, it can be hard not to feel depleted at the end of each day. We can all relate to the sentiment, “there’s not enough time to do everything”, let alone make time to relax and unwind.

But here’s the catch-22. If we’re too busy working to take any “me time”, we’re actually becoming less productive. It’s like trying to cut down a tree with a blunt saw, and not stopping to sharpen the saw because you’re too focused on the process of cutting. If you took the time to sharpen the saw, you’d cut the tree in less than half the time. Likewise, if you keep pulling long hours without taking enough breaks, you’ll burn yourself out and end up producing sloppy work. Plus, you’ll be more prone to recurring bouts of the cold and flu, having to take time off work.

So how does someone (realistically) take time out to de-stress at work, when it seems like there isn’t any? If the thought of having time to go for yoga during lunch makes you want to laugh or punch me, here are three practical ways for anyone to get started:

  1. Don’t eat and work at the same time
    I know it seems like you’re killing two birds with one stone, but you’re really just killing your digestive health. Your brain can either be in “fight or flight” mode when you’re working, or in “rest and digest” mode, which is when your body focuses on digestion, healing and repair. From a biological standpoint, you literally cannot do both. If you work and eat at the same time, your body will operate in “fight or flight” mode and shut down digestion, in order to preserve energy for your brain. The result? Indigestion, gas, bloating, and no down time either. So the next time you have lunch, eat in the office kitchen, food court or other community space. If none of these are options, eat at your desk but simply turn off your screen.

  2. Take 10 deep breaths
    It seems simple, but I guarantee the only time people actually do this is in a yoga class. Try this out: inhale through your nose for four seconds, then hold for four, and exhale through your mouth for four seconds. Deep breathing reduces our heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and promotes a state of calmness.

  3. Go for a walk
    I promise you, you have 15 minutes in the middle of your workday to take a walk outside. Unless you’re delivering babies or putting out fires, you can put on your headphones and go for a stroll. Turn off the social media, breathe deeply, get lost in the music and take in the nature around you.

At the end of the day, remember to take a step back and put it all in perspective. For most of us, our jobs are just not that serious. No ones life is on the line. That market report or project proposal you’re working on will get done. And if it doesn’t, you’ll get an extension and the universe won’t collapse around you! Nothing is more important than your health, because only when you feel at your best will you be able to produce the best work, and be a happier and more productive person all-round.

Alina Islam has helped my office kick bad caffeine habits and boosted our energy levels by tenfold. She can help with your office too! Drop a quick hello on her website


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