3 Ways to Pick Yourself Up When Workday Stress Gets You Down


Stress and the workday go together like peanut butter & jelly. Batman & Robin. You rarely think of one without the other. Of course, the peak of that stress can vary — sometimes you wake up feeling calm and not two hours later your hair’s on fire. Or you wake up in a wary state, sure that this day will burn you, and then — nothing.

The effects of stress tend to be cumulative, especially with the work-a-day stress we’re talking about, so yeah, morning traffic may make you edgy and more vulnerable to an insensitive email you get later on. And tight deadlines may mean you’re short on patience with others, as well as yourself. That’s why every little measure you take to smooth the spikes in your day can help build your resilience to stress.

And if anyone knows that, it’s the folks at oprah.com, who wrote this neat little story on ways to reduce stress in your workday. As a healthy living expert and long-time editor myself, I couldn’t resist adding to and expanding them a bit:

1. Find Some Flextime

Oprah.com says: Find out what kind of flexibility you have at your job. If you stay late Monday nights, could you take Friday afternoons off? Maybe one day a month you can work from home—and that’s the day to schedule the plumber, electrician, furnace repairman.

I say: Flex time is great—if your company allows it and it makes sense for your position. But if your work situation is non-negotiable, then think about what you can make flexible in your own life to accommodate your needs. For instance: Can you get up a bit early to do even a 20-minute brisk walk before work? Can you take lunch and leave the building and carve out even half an hour for yourself?

2. Shift Your Gaze

Oprah.com says: Look away from the computer screen every 45 minutes to relieve eyestrain. And stand up for a minute every hour to avoid low-back pain.

I say: Look into someone else’s eyes. Up your sense of connection with other people, don’t just look away from your screen and out the window (though man that does feel good to do), but look into the face of someone you work with, and talk for a bit. A colleague of mine and I used to catch each other’s eye when it was time to go grab some tea together and reconnect. Just that brief moment of camaraderie can carry you through a day.

3. Don’t Go It Alone

Oprah.com says: Ask for help. If you’re in a bind, see if a coworker will pitch in for you with the promise that you’ll cover for her the next time she’s in a crisis.

I say: And offer some, too. Women are notorious for trying to do it all themselves, and I see giving and receiving as a continuous loop. If you never ask for help, you’ll be swamped and never in a position to help. But if you accept support, you’re more likely to be able to give it. Also: research shows that giving does amazing things to your brain and body (read more on Stephen Post’s research on whygoodthingshappen.com — you’ll feel fantastic when you’re able to give something of yourself, your time, your attention, your efforts, to someone in need.)

You’ll feel a little like a superhero. And do superheroes fall apart during their commute? Nope.

Read more of the oprah.com story.

Originally published July 11, 2012.