Had a stressful day at work?
We’ve all been there. It’s been really busy at work, maybe a few things (or people) have wound us up and the pile of tasks in our To-Do list has grown beyond what it was in the morning.
At the end of the working day, we’re now carrying a lot of stress with little or no outlet for it.
And if we’re not careful, we take it home with us.
We arrive home and our loved ones, who may have had a great day up until that point (or may also be carrying their own issues) unfortunately become the recipients of our stress-release. Not that we notice, we’re too busy venting!
So now everyone’s feeling the effects of OUR stressful day at work.
And now that we’ve unloaded comes the realisation of what we’ve done to the family and we end up with a guilt trip.
7 tips to de-stress and avoid distress!
Let’s start from you still being at work. What can you do at the end of the working day that will enable you to leave your stress at work?
1. “Whine and Jeez” session.
Take a full 10 minutes at the end of each working day to note down all those things that have got you annoyed, or things you’re concerned about, tasks you’ve not completed, people’s behaviours… whatever’s got you stressed.
eg. “Jeez, I just can’t believe X did that…”
“How come this task has been dumped on me, I’m busy enough already. How do they expect me to get this done by …”
For each one, write down one thing you personally can do, which is likely to improve the situation.
If you finish before the 10 minutes, stay with it – this is download time. The more you can write down now, the less you need to keep in your head and be stressed about!
2. Treat the working day as a game!
A senior colleague of mine once gave me this advice and it really helped shift my thinking. After all, no-one comes to work deliberately to wind other people up – we’ve all got jobs to do and we all have positive intention to get them done. Stuff just gets in the way. A bit like Snakes and Ladders!
If you can see work as being a game, then you can begin to realise that at the end of the working day, you can choose to stop playing the game. You can put the pieces away in the box (drawer) and close the lid (the office door), leaving it all behind and knowing that you can start a new game or continue the same game tomorrow, with a fresh outlook.
(and if you’ve completed step 1, then you know where you got to and how you can take the game forwards).
3. Take a different route from the office.
Wherever you’re going next (whether it’s the gym or directly home), vary your journey. If you take the same route every day, you’re following a habit and if you want to break out of your stressy habit, you need to vary your route (and routine)!
Either get your map out and choose a different route, or even better, just be curious and take a few left or right turns that you don’t normally take and have fun with the journey. Being curious is great for changing your mood.
When they were younger, my kids called me ‘Scenic Seal’. The ‘Scenic’ part was because I would vary the route home and keep them guessing, the ‘Seal’ because I was a bit overweight and looked like a beached seal when I got out of the swimming pool!
4. Look up and enjoy the Scenery and/or Architecture
When we’re feeling stressed, we probably don’t realise that our head has dropped forwards and we’re switching between internal self-talk going on (beating ourselves up about what we haven’t and should have done) and feeling down/bad because of it, which unsurprisingly makes us repeat this cycle and we feel worse.
Just by lifting our heads and looking up at the rooftop architecture or the scenery and sky for a few minutes, we can change our emotional state and find a more positive outlook, even getting some great ideas flowing.
And if you can Smile at the same time, then you get even bigger impact!
The clues are in our language already, even though we may not have taken them literally: “Things are looking up!”, “Cheer up”, “Chin up!”. More truth and power in these words than we probably imagined?
OK, I’ve just felt a few people squirm as I’ve written that (and as you’re reading it). Maybe the idea of exercising and getting sweaty isn’t everybody’s idea of fun.
However, most people know that exercising which results in increasing our breathing rate can also lead to increasing the feel-good chemical in our brain, serotonin.
And there are countless ways to exercise, which don’t have to involve crunching weights or running on the same spot for 20 minutes on a treadmill at the gym.
Brisk walking out in the countryside is great as it raises the heart-rate and has the added benefit that you can look around at the scenery and up at the sky (see 4). Cycling also, though please keep an eye on the traffic if you’re on a main road!
An added advantage of taking this sort of exercise is that we get our best moments of insight when we are doing apparently “mundane” repetitive activity with our body and our brains can focus on other things, such as problem-solving.
6. Meditation / Mindfulness
Whatever you choose to call it, taking 10 minutes out to sit quietly still, focussing your attention on your breathing and expanding your consciousness to notice more in your surroundings, will help to reduce the noise of self-talk inside your head. To give you some ‘space’ from yourself.
There’s plenty information on approaches to meditation and mindfulness out there, and apps that you can download for your tablet, smartphone etc, so not going to say much more on it here, other than recommend that you try it.
And the more ‘busy’ your head is with thoughts, the longer you should meditate for!
7. Magic Door
My personal favourite for its simplicity and power: I invite you to try it.
I’d like you to close your eyes and imagine your front door right in front of you, close enough that you can reach out and touch it now.
With your eyes closed, feel the texture of the door under your fingers. Notice any special smells coming from within, maybe its the scent of flowers, homely essential oil aromas, or your favourite cooking drifting on the air – take in those smells and savour them now.
Remaining with your eyes closed and still with your hand touching the door, recall a specific time when you felt very welcomed by family or friends, as if it were happening right now. Feel those same feelings in your body, notice your breathing relax, any warmth you felt, hearing the words of welcome from those people, the warm cheerful chatter and smiles, inviting you in.
And now, while still touching the door with your eyes closed, recall a specific time when you were very relaxed and comfortable, stress-free, maybe by the beach, or in the countryside, by a lake. Feel the stillness and the peace associated with that time of being relaxed and stress-free as its happening right now. Enjoy that feeling, softening your body and breathing, and hearing whatever there is to hear: bird-song, the gentle breeze, the waves at the shoreline, distant voices and laughter.
And holding all those feelings inside you, know that you can bring back your feeling of peace, relaxation, stress-free, being welcomed in, any time you choose. Just by touching your front door. You can do it with your eyes open or closed, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have the power to choose to have that feeling.
So when you next arrive home, take a moment to finish your de-stress by stopping outside your front door and taking that touch.
Just be curious – can you bring that great feeling back just by focussing on it? How will this change how you greet and behave around your family this evening?
Be happy and curious!