Feeling stressed? Studies have shown that environment, overall health, and emotional state all are leading contributors to the physical duress caused by stress. By making adjustments to your lifestyle, you can create natural defenses against stress-related backache, headache, irritability, tiredness, and general malaise that will improve your mood and ability to cope with day-to-day annoyances. Generally, people think of lifestyle changes as major undertakings that you may not have the energy or time in your schedule to focus on; however, there are easy ways to improve your stress-busting abilities that won’t interfere with your busy day.
A couple of years ago, I took a demanding consulting position in a highly competitive company. I had early mornings (up by 5 A.M.) and late nights (home around 9 P.M.) every day, and every moment was filled with the need to battle fires while maintaining diplomacy. Within a month, I began to notice my peers buckle under the pressure and decided that I needed to do whatever I could to make myself resilient to stress, just to survive in the fast-paced environment.
I didn’t have a lot of spare time, and I was looking for an easy way to combat signs of stress. After doing some research on stress management, I wound up taking the advice that I could integrate into my day without disrupting my routine. By paying attention to how I felt physically whenever I felt my stress level rising, I was able to take some of the more achievable advice on reducing stress and apply it to my situation.
If you’re like many technology managers, the majority of your day is spent at the office. You’re exhausted when you get home and don’t have time for many recreational activities. Even so, it’s important that your lifestyle offer release from the pressures at work. While you may be skeptical about the improvements you will experience, dozens of organizations exist to help reduce stress and to educate people on changes that are designed to help your body cope with situational strife, and they all offer similar advice.
Web sites for stress management
- American Institute of Stress
- International Stress Management Association
- Stress, UK
- Stress Management Tips and Resources
At first glance, it may seem impossibly difficult to adjust the stress-causing aspects of your lifestyle, but a practical evaluation of your situation may show that improving your ability to cope with stress takes less effort as you might have thought. Review the advice below with an eye towards what works with your lifestyle, and you may be on your way to reducing stress at home and work.
- Eat healthy: You may have noticed that you feel the most stressed when you are hungry or feeling worn down. If you never eat breakfast or rarely eat lunch, you are at risk of falling into one of the most easily rectified traps for stress. Eating a couple of pieces of toast in the morning (even when eaten on the road during your commute) will improve concentration and boost your energy through the morning, and it takes very little effort on your part. Stock your desk with raisins, peanuts, and other snacks that can tide you over in case you need a boost during the day.
- Get enough sleep: Feeling tired or run down can turn into chronic aggravation, but many people simply don’t recognize that this symptom of stress comes from not getting enough sleep. The habit of going to bed earlier may take some discipline to build, but numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between rest and your ability to fight stress. You should also follow a set schedule and get up at the same time every day to help your body use your sleep most effectively.
- Exercise: Exercise is important to any lifestyle and helps improve your stamina. If you start feeling worn out in the afternoons, a nightly walk will help you sleep better and improve your energy level. Additionally, stretching and taking a break to walk around every so often while at work helps reduce the physical strain of working at a computer all day.
- Get rid of addictions: This is great advice at any time, but particularly limiting your use of caffeine and nicotine helps reduce stress. Realize that quitting use of an addictive substance is stressful in itself, but reducing your intake will have a noticeable benefit. As your health improves, so does your resilience, and limiting chemicals that increase stress levels will give you even more of a boost.
- Use relaxation techniques: You don’t have to meditate and light incense to relax. Try listening to talk radio during your commute instead of music. Surprisingly, this helped me get in gear for the day and served as a distraction to keep me from worrying about the day ahead. Other recommended activities include going out to a restaurant or movie once a week, taking up a hobby, or doing something that gives you a break from your normal routine. The key here for me was to consciously decide to relax and to take full advantage of downtime opportunities.
- Build a circle of friends for social support: Besides having people to talk to when you need to vent some steam, building a social circle gives you a distraction from your own problems. Additionally, socializing can serve as informal networking, and you may find solutions to issues you’re having through the experiences of others. The primary goal here, however, is to build relationships that are healthy and supportive.
- Manage your time: Working on time management has multiple benefits, as well. Not only will you come to an understanding of where you’re spending your time, but you’ll also be able to use what time you do have more efficiently. In the long run, this results in less stress due to greater control over your schedule. Additionally, you will be able to find the time to relax that you didn’t know you had!
Looking for information on time management?
- "Break bad habits to make your day more productive"
- "Time management for tech pros"
- "80/20 rule helps you work smarter, not harder"
A successful compromise
For me, making 100 percent reform in all of these areas was impossible. However, I was able to accomplish some improvement in each area, and the result was an improved sense of control over my situation and a more relaxed attitude overall. With only minor changes to your routine, you can feel happier, healthier, and be able to cope with more strain from your work life. By identifying areas where you could apply a little improvement, you’ll find that you lose nothing and gain a much better perspective.