Experiencing small amounts of stress is like getting the green light to jumpstart productivity. But if the stress continues to build, you’ll be stopped in your tracks by a big, bright red light sent by your brain.
This idea is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. Every day stressors prompt us to take action and get things done. Big time stress, on the other hand, overwhelms us to the point that productivity levels drop off. And when you’re trying to handle a complex task it doesn’t take much stress to throw off productivity.
Stress is like the coworker that never takes a day off. It’s a part of work life that we all have to learn how to manage. As overwhelming as stress can be, the solutions for reducing it are actually easier than you might think. Take a look at these five stress reducers that you can use while sitting at your desk.
Time Block Your Stress Away
The act of time blocking is an immediate stress reducer because it gives you a sense of control over your workday. When you feel like your to-do list is dictating your day but little progress is actually being made, it’s time to start blocking your time into manageable chunks dedicated to your priorities before stress sets in.
- Turn your priorities into a time block on your calendar.
- Focus on just one thing in each time block.
- Give yourself a reasonable amount of time for each time block.
- Don’t forget to add in time blocks for decompression breaks.
Go ahead and try it. Time block out the remainder of your day, or start fresh by time blocking tomorrow. If you need help making this a daily habit take the Time Blocking Mastery course!
Your breathing can tell you a lot about your stress levels. Breathing is so closely connected to stress there are wearable devices that can monitor breaths to determine if you’re getting stressed. Anytime you feel like stress is building take a minute to practice breath control. This technique can help you control your stress response and relaxation response so you react to stress in a more productive way.
- Find a quiet room where you can sit or lie down with no distractions.
- Take one normal breath followed by one deep breath.
- Slowly breath in through your nose making sure to fully fill the lungs.
- Hold it in for a moment then slowly breath out through your mouth.
- As you breathe, work in visualization by imagining yourself in a positive, calm situation.
- For optimal benefits practice focused breathing for about 10 minutes.
Stretch It Out
When you’re experiencing stress one natural reaction is muscle tension. Stress causes a flood of hormones to release in the body. Some of them affect the muscles and pain sensitivity. A prime example is tension headaches.
Stretching at your desk is a good idea regardless of your stress levels. All it takes is about five minutes of stretching at your desk to start zapping stress. Since sitting all day is bad for your health, go ahead and time block a few stretch sessions into your regular workday.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Another way to physically reduce stress is progressive muscle relaxation. It’s a technique that is often used to help people who have difficulty falling asleep. Starting with your toes, tense and relax each muscle group as you work your way up the body. This not only calms the mind, it also helps you differentiate between muscles that are tensed up and ones that are relaxed.
Read Something, Anything
Listening to music and drinking tea are relaxing, but research has shown the best stress-reducing activity is reading. As little as six minutes of reading can decrease stress levels by nearly 70 percent. Researchers from the University of Sussex saw similar outcomes no matter what reading material participants used. The theory is that losing yourself in a story takes you out of the current stressful situation, which helps your brain and body relax.
Whether you find relief through time blocking, breathing and stretching exercises, or relaxing with a good book, it’s important to do what you can to minimize stress levels in your life to the point that they motivate you rather than paralyze you. What tactics do you employ to keep stress from blinking a permanently red light in the direction of your productivity?