1. Instead of: Lashing out at your colleagues
You should: Do deep-breathing exercises
Work stress is unavoidable and can lead to pent-up anger. If not managed well, it could lead to extreme reactions, such as lashing out, walking out of a discussion or even passive-aggressive behaviour. The anger can even spill over into other areas of your life.
“Breathing deeply helps you calm and centre yourself so you can observe what is happening inside and outside you, and respond appropriately to it,” says Julia Ng, a professional certified coach at Executive Coach International.
“It enables you to slow down enough to notice physical cues such as your body tensing up, that signal you’re in danger of overreacting. It also allows you to spot triggers and patterns that cause you to react the way you do, so you can do something about it.”
2. Instead of: Working amid clutter
You should: Organise your work space
Neuroscientists at Princeton University in the United States studied people’s task performance when they worked in an organised versus messy environment. They found that physical clutter decreased performance and increased stress.
There’s nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with things, especially if they inspire you, says Julia. But when you have too many items around you, they star t competing for your attention. Clutter takes up mental and emotional space, overloads your senses and impairs your ability to process information and focus.
“You’ll find that when your mind is cluttered with too many concerns, your office or home tends to get messy too,” she points out. “So cleaning your desk, throwing away things you no longer need and organising your fi les could help you feel clearer and more settled.”
How sparse should your work desk be? While some people thrive in minimalist environments, others need some items in their space to feel inspired and get things done. Julia’s advice: Create a space that offers the right amount of stimulation to allow you to do your job well.
3. Instead of: Hanging around toxic colleagues
You should: Surround yourself with supportive ones
Gossipy, back-stabbing colleagues are stressful – they sap your energy and fi ll your mind with negative thoughts. For the sake of your emotional health, Tracy Chong, principal career coach at Passions Work, advises being around co-workers you find positive and supportive.
“These people will help and encourage you, and inspire you to do your best work, unlike the toxic ones, who are only concerned about dwelling on problems in the office,” she says.
4. Instead of: Complaining
You should: Show gratitude
A person with a victim mentality is constantly complaining and laying blame as she feels powerless about her situation or life, says Julia. She doesn’t see the situation for what it is and makes things out to be worse than they actually are, which adds unnecessary stress.
Choose to be in a more empowered position, Julia advises. “For example, you could be grateful for the challenge in front of you instead of complaining that it’s too much work and too difficult. You could be grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow instead of complaining that your boss gives you brutally honest feedback. You could be grateful that you can make a difference and improve your service standards instead of complaining that your customers are too demanding. Being grateful is about saying yes to life.”
5. Instead of: Overcommitting
You should: Say no
Tracy says you’ll be surprised at how saying “no” can help you manage your stress levels at work. If you agree to take on more than you can handle, you will feel overwhelmed and might burn out.
“Learn to say no right from the star t,” Tracy advises. “Otherwise, let your boss or colleagues know that you will check your schedule and get back to them. If what they’re requesting can’t be done, let them know and explain why.”
Also read: 5 easy ways to manage work stress
6. Instead of: Procrastinating
You should: Prioritise
In this fast-paced world where you are constantly expected to perform at increasingly higher levels, there’s often no getting away from multi-tasking. But studies have shown that when you multi-task, you end up not doing anything particularly well as your focus is divided. Julia suggests prioritising your tasks and giving each one your full attention before moving on to the next one.
“Many ‘urgent’ tasks take us away from more important long-term objectives. Some urgency is good to give us a boost in performance, but too much adrenaline creates more stress. The reality is that not everything is urgent or necessarily important,” she says.
“Plan to do what’s important first instead of tackling everything that seems urgent. This helps you focus and takes the worry off things you know you are going to handle later.”
7. Instead of: Working non-stop
You should: Take regular breaks
“It’s better to have a long and fulfilling career that is sustainable rather than moving full-steam ahead, only to realise later that you cannot keep up with the pace,” says Tracy. “What’s the point of making it to the top of the career ladder if you don’t have your health?”
Also read: 5 ways to be more assertive at work
She suggests taking breaks every 30 to 45 minutes. Take a walk down the hallway, have some tea or coffee, do some simple stretching at your desk or chat with a colleague, just to break away from your work routine.
8. Instead of: Getting sidetracked
You should: Cut out interruptions
It’s hard to get work done if you are constantly being interrupted. This can leave you feeling like you’ve lost control over your schedule.
List your most common distractions and figure out how to eliminate, minimise or get around these time-wasters. For instance, if you need some peace and quiet because you need to get something important done, Tracy suggests booking a separate meeting room and letting your colleagues know you are unavailable for a couple of hours.
Best Stress Busters
• Nukkles Vibrating Head Massager, US$24.95 ($35), www.nukkles.com
Melt away your stress with this head massager. The handheld treasure gently stimulates the millions of nerve endings on your scalp, as well as your acupressure points.
• Smiley Squeeze Ball, US$1.99, www.therapyshoppe.com
These stress-relief balls come in assorted colours and are a great relaxation aid.
• Osim uBuzz, price unavailable, www.osim.com
With three specially designed massage attachments, this portable massager eases muscle aches and strain effortlessly.
This story was originally published in the January 2016 issue of Simply Her.