A recent press release from the American Psychological Association reported that 61% of the stress in our daily lives is derived from work. A separate survey from Statistic Brain highlighted that 48% of people said stress has had a negative impact in their personal and professional lives. Even more disheartening, roughly 75% of those individuals regularly experienced physiological symptoms caused by stress, like headaches, rapid heartbeat, insomnia and others.
This may not come as a surprise. The end of the year is ripe with stressful situations. But, rather than try to account for the all the things outside your control, here's a list of steps you can take to relieve the effects of stress in your life:
When dealing with the daily work grind, a familiar axiom comes to mind: “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon.” If you find yourself rushing, make time for a breather. Seriously—take a few seconds (even now) to take a slow, deep breath. An article from the Harvard Medical School notes the powerful benefits of deep abdominal breathing—something you may not be accustomed to doing. It helps to slow your heartbeat and to stabilize blood pressure which, in turn, allows you to think more clearly.
A more coherent mind gives you an opportunity to think critically about your work and to ask the important questions that matter. Often, stress can derail your priorities and send you straight into "firefighting mode". If you notice your time is being hijacked by what other people think you should do, take a moment to (re)align yourself (and your team) with what takes priority. Seek out specifics to help you achieve this goal and always work for tangible results. You'll encounter less stress and more success when you remember to stop and see if what you've been doing is helping you get to where you want to go.
Stress can take your attention hostage. In order to take back control, formulate a realistic plan that’s focused on endurance. This entails developing achievable milestones that are also flexible to change. A healthy plan allows you to stay on task despite interruptions. It should also allow adequate time for breaks along the way. In addition, your plan provides you with a clear understanding of your objectives, and it should remain within reach, for referencing, at all times.
There's a difference between a hard 'no' and a soft 'no'. And saying ‘no’ doesn’t only apply when you’re formulating a realistic plan. If the task or project you're faced with isn’t aligned with the objectives you've previously identified, it’s OK to reject it (for now) and come back to it at a later time. While there are some exceptions, the takeaway is this: success is achieved by staying persistent and aligned with your values and goals.
In closing, chronic stress can lead to even more debilitating effects such as exhaustion, doubt, and organizational decline. It saps motivation and affects every member of your team. When you recognize you’re feeling overwhelmed, make stress step aside with these tips in order to recover your zen.