1. Take the stairs, skip the lift!
We spend eight hours a day sitting at our desks. Studies have shown that long periods of inactivity can make us feel tired and apathetic. But physical activity can increase the hormone epinephrine, which gets blood pumping faster. Also, longer periods of exercise (30 minutes or more) can actually increase endorphins, the hormone of happiness! That two minutes of exercise when you walk upstairs can instantly make you feel more active and put you back in control. Try it just for today and take the stairs!
2. Take breaks
This is one thing we should all understand: It's GOOD to leave your desk for five minutes every now and then! Human beings have a hard wired biological cycle of productivity. For 45- 90 minutes at a time, we can focus on the task at hand without distraction. This is when we are most productive. After 90 minutes, your body is telling you to take a break in any way it can- you may feel fidgety, impatient and stressed out. If signals like this are ignored, cortisol and adrenaline hormones increase, and we become stressed. To feel good, take a short rest between tasks and feel better for it!
3. Watch your caffeine intake
You may believe that the coffee you had today helps you concentrate on the tasks at hand, but unfortunately it can also make you feel much more stressed. Recommended daily caffeine intake is 400mg, roughly four cups of coffee. Caffeine interferes with the GABA neurotransmitter, responsible for regulating mood and emotion, which can lead to anxiety problems. Caffeine also increases levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine in the long term. Although a cup of coffee can increase focus, usually the effect only lasts about 30 minutes. The rest of the focus you feel after your morning cup comes straight from you! Physical exercise or controlled breathing can also improve concentration.
4. Make time for yourself
Alone time can seriously improve your productivity, make you feel more engaged with your work and give you something to look forward to during office hours. Go for a walk at lunch. Try to finish your tasks before you help someone else with theirs, so you don't have to stay overtime at the office. Allow yourself to take an afternoon off to have 'me time' occasionally, and feel better for it! Here is a nice infographic about making time for yourself at work.
5. Connect with your colleagues
It's tempting to send an email to a colleague in the room next door, or even a few desks away, but research shows that face to face interaction with co-workers every day can help you feel more engaged with your job, raise self-esteem and overcome difficult situations, all of which reduce stress. Also, co-workers can become the best friends you'll ever have, especially in a stressful workplace.
Perhaps it's difficult for you to get physical exercise at work for one reason or another. If so, have no fear- you can actually reduce stress and tension by doing a short relaxation exercise. Just 3-5 minutes of deep, controlled breathing can relieve headaches, tension and anxiety symptoms, and can improve concentration.
7. Plan and prioritise
It's easy to feel swamped by all the projects we are doing, so it's important to plan properly. Most of us know that setting out blocks of time each day to work single-mindedly on a task can be very productive. Not only that, but learning to say 'no' is an important skill. Co-workers and superiors may be unaware of the schedule you have set yourself, so might give you tasks that add to your workload. If your priority list is overflowing, let them know instead of creating extra stress for yourself. Also, remember to add in blocks for rest breaks.
8. Perform a random act of kindness
Being kind can actually reduce stress and make us healthier! Doing something good for others while at the office; buying someone lunch, making a coffee, donating money to charity, smiling at a stranger... the emotional warmth associated with random acts of kindness can produce the hormones oxytocin and dopamine, which reduce blood pressure and make us feel euphoric. The effects of kindness are contagious, so what goes around will come around. Check out#RandomActsOfKindness on Twitter for some ideas.
9. Eat well
There's a lot of evidence that eating well can directly reduce stress, but it may be difficult to choose the healthy option in your workplace canteen. Avoid caffeine (for reasons above) and fizzy drinks. The carbon dioxide in fizzy drinks can aggravate stress, and high sugar content in the blood increases tension. There is also evidence that high vitamin content in food can reduce the physical and mental effects of stress. Some foods are popular to reduce stress, including yoghurts, fish and herbal products, so it could be beneficial to add these to your diet.
10. Take control, but remember that you can't control everything.
No one is sitting at your desk but you. You are the best person for the job, and you can take the initiative to complete your assignments. It's true that meetings will be rescheduled, projects will be cut and problems will arise, but that's not your fault! You can't control everything, or everyone. However, you can really excel at your own tasks and projects as long as you remember to make time for yourself, and time to relax. You're doing a great job, keep it up!