Natural Ways to Combat Stress in the Office
I am a creature prone to stress. I have always marveled at those people who are able to thrive under stressful situations, the way it heightens their sense of urgency and they’re capable of making split-second decisions on instinct. I think we all have a friend or two (or maybe you're one of them) that says stress either makes them perform better, or stress doesn't bother them at all.
I have learned over the years that I am definitely not one of those people. Whereas stress makes some keenly aware of their options, and thus, great at their job in the face of stimuli, stress for me makes me stall into a hamster wheel of indecision and general WTF-ness.
That's not to say I can't handle it, of course – in fact, on the other hand stress can make me feel very purposeful – but I just know that when I'm under stress, I need to take extra steps or precautions to ensure that I am still performing as well as I can. It basically just takes me twice as long to do something when I'm under significant amounts of stress. For example, I obsess about typos in an email so I re-read it 20 times - or I think back to a message I sent two hours prior and worry, "Did I really attach the correct attachment?". Or, my poor eyes will take a beating after I realize I’ve been typing about 5 inches from my computer screen.
Anyway, I think you get my point! So, what are some natural ways I combat stress? Yoga is a great way. A long run outdoors is a great way. Eating clean, healthy meals is a great way. But what about small steps or options for when you're stuck at your desk? Read below for some time-worn tips from a stress-prone chick (me):
Create a Basic Morning Routine When You Arrive at Work
To me, maintaining balance is probably the most key aspect in handling anything unexpected that comes my way. I know we’re talking about work in this article, but for what it’s worth, outside of work and just in the general day-to-day of living life, I can always tell my stress levels are in direct correlation to something in my life not being well-maintained. I usually run through this quick mental checklist:
- Have I seen any of my friends lately?
- Have I been exercising?
- Have I been getting enough sleep?
- Have I felt good about my work?
- Have I been eating nutritious meals?
- Have I had alone time with my significant other?
- Have I had enough alone time for just myself?
- Have I been indulging in a little too much alcohol?
- Have I been indulging in a little too much caffeine?
As with anything, balance is always key. Too much of any one thing, or not enough of another, can be a quick contributing factor as to why you’re maybe not firing on all cylinders.
I have found that creating that same kind of balanced structure for my work day is monumentally helpful is curtailing any overbearing stress. Every day is different of course, but a basic morning routine can assist in getting your day off on the right foot.
Start by considering what seems calming yet productive to you. Is it checking your email, then making a cup of coffee? Is it checking in with your co-workers then checking in with your e-mail? Arriving 15 minutes early to eat breakfast in the break room, rather than at your desk? Either way, try to find a few steps that are uniquely comfortable to you and what sounds enjoyable. It makes everything else a little more tolerable when you haven’t been rushed into chaos. Then implement as much structure as you would like, or are able to, throughout your day. I have a basic two-step morning routine and then another similar routine when I finish with lunch.
Even if your e-mail inbox has gone to hell in a handbasket since you first arrived at 8am, working from your own personal, balanced schedule can provide a sense of structure and order to your day.
If you’ve heard about essential oils but are also maybe a little like, but what do they do? The answer is basically, whatever you need them to do. Calm you? Re-energize you? Inspire you? It makes them a great tool in this case.
The trick to finding an essential oil that works for you is to go to a place that sells them (Whole Foods, GNC, most organic sections of grocery stores have them, yoga studios, etc.) and take a few minutes to sample – a.k.a. smell – the scents that look intriguing to you. Lavender, eucalyptus, lemon verbena, citrus…the list goes on! Some are blends with indicative names like “Chill Pill.” Smell several and choose one that seems relaxing to you.
As you're sniffing the essential oils, pay close attention to any smell that breaks up or interrupts your current thought process. This is particularly the kind of scent you're trying to identify -- the idea being that whatever essential oil you choose will be used to override your stressful thoughts in the middle of a hectic day. (I was a little hesitant this would actually work, but it seriously does the trick.)
When you’re swamped at work, put a few drops in your lotion, or take a whiff of the essential oil from its tiny container. You can even dilute it in a spray bottle with water and use it to mist your face and neck. Some scents are also available in roller ball form so you can just apply a bit to your temples. The world is your oyster!
Enjoy Your Desk Space
If at all possible, try to make your desk as comfortable and as functional for you as you can. Whether it’s displaying a few photos of your family, or your dog, to having a succulent or two on your desk (guilty as charged!), making your desk your own space is a great way to feel less stressed.
Also, finding a way to neatly organize yourself goes without saying that it will make your life much easier. File folders, inbox/outbox systems, and pen holders are your friend. Your desk may look like a disaster by 5pm (also guilty as charged), but having a home for everything is a relatively easy way to lower your level of chaos.
There’s an App for That
- Sounds: Another trick of mine is to slip in some headphones and listen to my Sleep Pillow app. It’s basically a noise machine for your phone and it can play any form of pleasant white noise you prefer: rain, a fan, ocean sounds, etc. If I’m under a particularly tight deadline, sometimes I like being able to drown out office chatter until my work is completed. Plus on a Monday morning, beach vibes are always appreciated.
- Inspiration: I also have a few apps on my phone dedicated to centering myself. Whether you prefer to center yourself spiritually with a daily devotional app, or a yoga mantra of the day – maybe it’s even just a daily inspirational quote – having quick access to something that motivates your spiritual self, in whatever form that may be, is also extremely calming.
- Breathing: Any sort of mindfulness app is a great tool if you’re in the middle of a meltdown-of-a-day. Mindfulness apps can provide quick breathing exercises that allow you to take a moment of pause. If you have the ability to slip in your headphones and do it at your desk, that’s ideal, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t stepped into the bathroom at work for about 3 minutes to go through a breathing routine. (It had been an inexplicably tough day that day!)
Get Up From Your Desk
When all else fails, sometimes it’s best to just get up and move around. Get up and go to the bathroom, or make a cup of tea – or both! Print off that PowerPoint you’ve been meaning to print out for a while and take a nice long walk to the printer. Whatever suits the situation, a change of scenery almost always provides a little break.
If your day is stressful, it’s probably unlikely that you’ll be able to take a walk outside (that would mean you have extra time which you probably don’t have) but if there’s any opportunity to get out of your building, try to take it. Fresh air during a coffee run, or eating your lunch outside (even if it’s for 5 minutes) can provide a calming element to your day.