When it comes to reducing job stress, most of the focus – and rightfully so – falls on how to tweak things around the workplace. Common suggestions include organizing your work-space, taking breaks, promoting social connection between coworkers and employers, and learning how to prioritize your workload for better productivity.
But reducing stress and achieving your work goals is a full-time task. That means that you must also take proactive steps when you’re not on the clock.
Eat right and exercise
It’s not only important to eat well when you’re at work. An overall health plan will help you reduce stress and improve your mental health, allowing you to achieve your workplace goals. What you eat matters, not only for controlling obesity and other physical ailments but also your brain.
“Evidence of the brain-gut connection also lends support the hypothesis that when it comes to mental health, food matters. The idea that there might be a significant link between gut health and brain health – and that gut bacteria imbalances in a number of neurological conditions, including anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD and schizophrenia – has gained steam in the scientific community,” says The Huffington Post.
Exercise is one of the quickest ways to reduce stress, as it increases blood flow to the brain and releases endorphins. Getting a few minutes of exercise in during breaks at work can be beneficial, but using your time off to work out can have positive effects that carry over throughout the work week.
Take a vacation
Multiple studies have found that taking vacations help to reduce stress and anxiety, increase productivity, and even promote better sleeping patterns. We all know how important sleep is when it comes to stress relief and productivity. Some psychologists suggest that taking more frequent, shorter vacations instead of one big vacation can have added benefits. Taking weekend trips can also help reduce stress.
In fact, the simple act of planning a vacation and having it marked down on your calendar can begin the stress-reducing process before you even go dip your toes in the sand.
Find a rewarding side project
Is there creative project or business idea that you’ve been too busy (or maybe a even a little intimidated) to pursue? Now’s the time to give it a go. If you’ve got a great idea for a novel, start writing. If there’s a small business that you think could be a success, write a business plan or create a website so that you can get it off the ground. If the project is something you enjoy and are passionate about, it won’t feel like work. Devoting yourself to something you care about can be very rewarding and give you a big energy boost.
Turn off your email notifications
One of the biggest ways in which people over-stress themselves is by never disconnecting from work. Sure, for most business professionals it’s a pipe dream to think you’ll be able to always stop working when the clock hits 5 o’clock. There’s always more work to be done, even when you’re technically “off”. But sometimes, you need to form a clear line between work time and down time. It can even make you more focused on the job if you limit your work hours to, well, actual work hours. This follows a tried and true stress-reduction principle – you must learn that it’s ok to say “no” sometimes.
“To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires ‘switching off’ from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences,” says the American Psychological Association.
Maintain an active social life
Isolation can lead to depression, and without any outlet for social interaction the workplace environment can become oppressing. Research shows that people who maintain an active social life are much happier. Happiness leads to reduced stress, which leads to productivity. Make time to have a life outside of work. You’ll be a better employee for it.