5 Tips to Manage Stress at Work

Before I was a yoga teacher and yoga studio owner, I was a Product Marketing Manager at Dell, and before that I was an Engineer and a Program Manager at HP. I understand the stress people experience in Corporate America.

In order to accomplish your work responsibilities, you're navigating a sea of obstacles every day. Depending on your job, you may be battling bureaucracy, processes, deadlines, technical issues, bully bosses, and/or toxic co-workers.

On top of that, you're trying to feed your family healthy food, exercise, get adequate sleep, and maybe even have a bit of a social life. Add to that the unexpected stresses that pop up in life like family illnesses and car trouble, and it's a wonder we can maintain our health, let alone get any work done.

Here are 5 tips I've relied on to get me through particularly challenging times. Maybe they can help you too...

1.  Don't be a perfectionist. One of my managers at Dell was a really outstanding guy. He was a sharp Marketing Manager and a devoted husband and father two two teenage kids, and he once gave me this great advice: Everything doesn't need to be perfect. You can get a lot more important work done if you prioritize your energy on your most important work tasks and don't sweat the low priority details.

2.  "It's just work!" This one was inspired during my yoga teacher training. We were asked to reflect on who we are if aren't allowed to define ourselves by outside entities. "I'm a marketer at Dell" or "I'm a wife" were out. "I'm a peaceful, breathing being" was in. Take a minute to think about it: your work is not your life. One of my European colleagues at HP once told me "Americans live to work, while Europeans work to live." I think that's a pretty powerful message.

3.  "He/She is just a person, too." Presenting to higher-level managers or even just a group of peers can induce a high level of stress. Public speaking is the #1 fear of millions of people in this country. Manage this stress by knowing that the people in your audience are people just like you. They have goals and issues in their life just like you. Chances are they've been in your shoes and they're going to be sympathetic. So just take a deep breath, exhale, and speak your message.

4.  "That person has an issue. I am fine." It's inevitable - you're going to come across some difficult people. It might be your boss, it might be a co-worker, it might be a complete stranger. They may say some nasty things to you that make you feel angry and defensive. Take a moment to remember that they've got stuff going on in their life and their behavior probably has nothing to do with you. If they're a chronic pain in your neck, think about what it must be like to live life in their body. Think about how it must feel to always be cranky, grouchy, and mean. It must be horrible to live like that. Try to have some sympathy for the person. Know that they have an issue and you are fine. Know that when they go home at night, they'll still have their issue and you will still be fine.

5.  Breathe. Even if you can't do yoga poses at work to help manage your stress, you can easily relax and breathe. Set up three 5 minute "appointments" on your calendar to remind yourself to take breathing breaks. Set one appointment mid-morning, one for the beginning of your lunch break, and one mid-afternoon. Really, do it! During these short breaks, sit at the front edge of your seat, lengthen your spine, and rest your feet firmly on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe. Start by observing your natural breathing. You might even realize you've been holding your breath. Slowly and gently start to deepen your inhales and lengthen your exhales. Keep all of your focus on your breathing. Observe as the speed of your thoughts slows or even stops. Observe the capacity of your lungs. This practice serves two purposes. First, it helps provide calm in the moment, which helps reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body. Second, it helps you increase your body and mind awareness. By taking these breaks to observe your breathing, you'll automatically begin to be more conscious of your posture, stress level, and breathing (or lack thereof) throughout the day.

Living life at the pace of the 21st century is really tough and stressful. And as you probably know, if left unchecked, stress can lead to disease such as cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer. It's really important that we all find tools to help us stay healthy.

I've shared my tips for managing stress at work, but I'm sure you've got more of your own. I'd love to know what works for you!

In the Comments below, please post your top tools for managing stress. If they work for you, they'll surely work for someone else, and by sharing your ideas you'll be helping other people manage their stress and live healthfully. How great is that?!

Until next time-

Lots of love, Zelinda

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