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Managing Stress at Work: A Step by Step Guide

Monday mornings are such a stressful time for so many people. Many of us start dreading it Sunday nights and, therefore, do not even fully enjoy the entire weekend. In fact, Monday mornings are so stressful that the majority of heart attacks occur on Mondays around 9am.

If you had a way to manage stress at work, Sunday nights could be more relaxing and Monday mornings would not be so dreadful. Here is a step by step guide to managing stress at work. These steps do not address specific work-related issues, but are a general guide to lowering your overall level of stress throughout the work day and can be used for getting through any day, not just Mondays.

Upon Awakening

Set your alarm to go off 15 minutes earlier than usual. I know this sounds like it would create more stress for you, but 15 minutes to get into the mind frame of less stress will do more for you than those extra 15 minutes of sleep. Once your alarm goes off, sit up. Do not lie back down. If you have to, put your alarm on the other side of the room so that you have to get up to shut it off. Take a few deep breaths and stretch. Practice diaphragmatic breathing (see blog titled How to De Stress Your Body). If you normally exercise in the morning, stick to your exercise routine after finishing your deep breathing. Otherwise, use the rest of your 15 minutes to do a visualization exercise. Visualize yourself feeling good, feeling restful, and successfully accomplishing everything you need to do today. Then begin your morning routine while trying to hold onto the good feelings you brought up during your visualization. Even if you can only hold onto it for an extra 2 minutes, that is better than you did last Monday morning.

Upon Arriving at Work

Take a few minutes before getting out of your car to center yourself and reconnect with the feelings of well-being and peace that you brought up from the morning’s visualization to help shield you from the stress emanating from your work environment as you walk into your work space. Before tackling any work, make a list of everything you would like to accomplish for the day and then prioritize them. Do this so that the most important things get completed first and, if you run out of time or get interrupted, the consequences will not be as bad.

At Lunch

Take advantage of your lunch break. It may be tempting to use the time to get more work done but this is about the time when your energy level is low and your body is not fully functioning due to low blood sugar and hunger (especially if you did one of the biggest no-no’s in fighting stress which is skipping breakfast). While replenishing your body with nutritious food, replenish your mind by reading a book you enjoy, going for a walk in the park, or just getting out of your work environment. Instead of feeling like you have been at work all day, you can come back to your desk feeling like you took a break from work and start fresh.

An Hour Before the End of the Workday

This is around the time when it seems like the clock slows down and no longer functions normally. You are ready for the day to end but this feels like the longest hour in the day. Do a body scan. This means focusing and paying attention to each part of your body, starting with your head and neck and going down to your feet. If you find any tension in any part of your body, consciously relax that part of your body.

At the End of the Day

Sit in your car for a few minutes and breathe. Congratulate yourself for making it through the day. Hopefully, prioritizing your to-do list allowed you to complete the most important tasks and leaves you feeling a little relieved that they are done. One of the benefits to managing stress is clear thinking. During the day, you may have come up with your own ways to add to managing stress at work, such as adding calming pictures to your screen saver, playing classical music at a low volume in your work space, or reading an inspirational quote during high stress times. Practice these tips to manage your stress and you will come up with more personal ones that work for you too.

At Bedtime

If you are under a lot of stress, you probably go to bed when you are exhausted. Unfortunately, exhaustion means that your mind and body were tired earlier and you ignored the signs. Even though you have a lot to do, you would get more done if you had more energy. Ignoring the signs of fatigue will not get you more energy. It will put you in a sleep deprived state and then it will take you longer to accomplish what you could have accomplished in a non-sleep deprived state. It is in your best interest to manage your stress and get adequate rest. So before you reach the point of exhaustion, go to bed 15 minutes earlier and try to meditate. Meditation just means that you are relaxing your body and focusing on your breathing. Normally, meditation is done sitting up so that you do not fall asleep, but this time go ahead and meditate while lying in bed. If you happen to fall asleep, that is okay. If you are able to relax your body and clear your mind and just focus on your breath to the point that you fall asleep, that is a good thing.

Don’t let Monday mornings interfere with your Sunday nights. Fully enjoy your weekends and manage your stress at work.

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