We’re almost at the end of the year. Your work calendar is running out of days and stress levels are peaking. Here are eight ways to relieve stress and stay focused for in work just before Christmas.
It’s almost Christmas. There’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it. Not to mention all the Christmas shopping you have to get done, and all those family visits taking up your free time. When are you supposed to unwind?
With little opportunity for relaxation, you’re going to need a few tricks to keep your stress levels down during the final few weeks of work.
Here’s how to stay calm in the face of mounting anxiety and stressful workloads.
You might be rolling your eyes at this one, especially if you’ve struggled with it before, but there’s a reason it tops all of the relaxation lists. You don’t need to go into full ‘downward-facing dog’ in the middle of the office to practice mindfulness. It’s all about focusing your mind on the present and taking it off the 75 tasks you should be doing right now.
Studies show that controlled breathing is scientifically proven to quell the body’s natural stress response. If you’re still finding it hard to concentrate on your breathing, there’s an alternative trick to focus your mind. Switching small, monotonous habits throughout the day can help you clear and control your mind.
Even just switching which hand you brush your teeth with, taking a different route to work or switching up how you sit at your desk can trigger your mind and force you to focus on a task that is usually mindless.
Give yourself more time
We know it’s hard to commit to getting up half an hour earlier when deep down, you know you don’t have to. But rushing will raise your heart rate and therefore your stress levels, which isn’t exactly going to set you up for the day.
Rushing around doesn’t just affect you either. According to The Wall Street Journal, rushing will cause second-hand stress and hinder productivity for you and your colleagues.
Giving yourself between 20 and 30 extra minutes in the morning will train you to slow down, giving you ample time to get ready for the day. The key to giving yourself extra time is not to use it to fit in an extra task. If you usually leave the breakfast dishes until you come home, continue to leave them there.
Write down your worries
This time of year can bring a lot of extra worries that are guaranteed to stress you out. Whether it’s financial worries, getting your work finished before Christmas or organising your team, it’s easy for your worries to get on top of you.
Physically writing your worries down can actually help to de-stress you and worry less. A study from the University of Chicago showed that writing worries and anxieties down was a form of unloading them, which in turn, “freed up brainpower”.
Keep a journal in your desk to write your worries down whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, to clear your head and focus on what you need to do.
Go for a walk
If you’re one of those people who chains themselves to the desk from 9am until 6pm, you need to get up and walk around the office right now.
While jobs that have a lot of walking around or exertion might sound more exhausting than your cushy desk job, a sedentary lifestyle is far more draining and unhealthy for our bodies. In fact, recently published research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous to our health as smoking.
Whether you go to the gym on your lunch break, walk around the nearest park for half an hour or even allow yourself to make regular laps around the building, you need to get up from your desk regularly and move around to keep stress levels low. If you get outside for fresh air, bonus!
Allow time to make a list
Similar to your list of worries, physically writing down a to-do list will focus your mind on the tasks you have to get done. Handwriting the list instead of typing it will clarify each task better and force your brain to actively think about each one.
Giving yourself a sense of achievement will also lower your stress levels. The more you can cross things off the list, the more on top of your work you’ll feel, so be sure to break down bigger tasks into smaller items and tick each one off as you go.
Bring home to work
You’re never supposed to bring your work home if you can help it, but what about bringing your home to work? Studies show that people are more productive and less stressed when they feel at home or comfortable.
We’re not advising you turn up to work in your PJs, but bringing little home comforts to your desk can make you feel more settled, calmer and more productive.
Whether you fill your walls around your desk with pictures of loved ones, keep a pair of slippers under the desk or use your favourite mug from home for hot chocolate, bringing a little bit of home to the office will keep you calm.
Use essential oils
Imagine if you could pop out to the spa once a week for a nice, relaxing massage? Financial restrictions aside, this is probably not feasible in the time you have during your work week. But you can still bring a sliver of spa-like relaxation to the office.
Essential oils are a proven natural remedy for anxiety, and placing a few drops on your pulse points or even just breathing in a few drops when you’re feeling stressed will calm your anxiety instantly.
There are a number of essential oils that will calm your stress levels, including lavender, rose, camomile and ylang ylang. Essential oils should be diluted before being put directly on the skin. Alternatively, you can buy relaxing oils that are already blended and can be applied directly.
Tidy your desk
As Albert Einstein famously said, “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”. While we wouldn’t dare disagree, your desk doesn’t have to be clear for you to be calm, but it should be organised.
Do you have a lot of files and post-it notes scattered around, reminding you of a literal mess of things you still have to do? Sorting through the clutter will help you get to grips with what you have to do.
Give yourself 10 minutes to take everything off your desk, give it a clean and then sort through the clutter before you decide to put it back on your desk. Meanwhile, you will be mentally organising your mind’s files and getting yourself organised, alleviating your stress.
Looking for jobs in tech or science? Check out our Employer Profiles for information on companies hiring right now and sign up for our Career Republic e-zine for a weekly digest of sci-tech careers news and advice.