Effective ways to reduce stress on the job

Feeling stressed at work? Here are some 10 ways to relieve stress and continue performing at your maximum.

            Vacations. Many people often talk about going for long periods even years without a vacation. All work without some time to rest and relax can take a severe toll on anyone. Sitting on the beach, under the sun. with the waves pounding at your feet is a marvelous way to let off some of the pressure that's been building inside you. How long should your vacation be really depends on your personality. Some people find they need at least a week or two to unwind fully. Others say taking that much time off creates a backlog of work that just adds to their stress when they return to work. You might also want to consider several shorter vacations during the year instead of one long one in order to relieve work stress.

            Hobbies to reduce stress. The best way to take your mind off your work is with a hobby that fills your free time. Find something you like and usually something you can't get on the job. For example, if you sit at a desk all day, try hiking, camping, bicycle riding or some other physical activity. If you feel your job doesn't provide an outlet for your creativity, take up painting, music or another activity that satisfies your creative side.

            Screening. I feel that working alone, in long stretches, is far more practical and productive than working in the corporate environment, where your open door is an invitation for everyone to interrupt you, at any time, regardless of how busy you are. If you find these constant interruptions stressful, it may pay you to screen calls and visitors. Take calls when you want to; if you're busy, have someone take a message so you can return the call later.

            Unlisted phone number. Few things are as intrusive as a work related phone calls received at home. If you are bothered by too many such calls from subordinates or supervisors, consider getting an unlisted number. If company policy dictates that people at work must have access to your home number, you might want to buy a telephone answering machine. The machine lets you monitor incoming calls without picking up the phone.

            Privacy. Modular offices and open work spaces are popular with managers who think constant employee interaction is a good thing. But these setups deprive workers of privacy, and lack of privacy in turn adds stress and reduces productivity. You should consider an office setup in which all employees have small, private offices, with doors they can shut, to give them a place to think.

            Dual offices. My Uncle Max, a college professor, has two offices: his regular office and a small, "secret" office tucked away in the basement of another department's building. Max goes there to unwind, to work away from the crowds for a few hours, when the pressures of students, faculty meetings and research overwhelm him. Owning two offices with the freedom to to unwind in one or the other does help to reduce stress at work.

            Delegation. Do you have too much work to do? Delegate it. Don't think you're the only one who can do your work. You'd be surprised at what your co-workers can accomplish for you. If you plan on reducing work stress, the last thing you want is to do all the work alone especially if co-workers can help.

            Divide and conquer. If you're faced with a big task and a short deadline, break the assignment up into many smaller segments and do a part of the job every day. Having to write only one page a day for ten days seems a lot less formidable a task than having to produce a ten page paper in two weeks.

            Deep breathing. Psychologists have developed a number of relaxation techniques that can help reduce stress on the job. All can be performed easily at work. One of the most basic techniques is deep breathing. It relieves tension by increasing your oxygen intake. To practice it, sit in a comfortable position with your hands on your stomach. Inhale deeply and slowly. Let your stomach expand as much as possible. Hold your breath for five seconds. Then exhale slowly through pursed lips, as if whistling. Repeat the cycle three or four times.

            Visualizations. To escape from the stress of the "real world," close your door, sit back and spend the next 10 minutes in a pleasant daydream. This short "mental vacation" provides a nice tension reducing break.


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