Updated: Reduce stress with a few simple tips

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We all need to reduce stress as much as possible right now. Originally written in 2012, I have updated this simple guide to do just that with 2020 in mind. 

If you’re looking to reduce stress, no one would blame you. It’s fair to say that we all work pretty hard these days, right? And that leads to the occasional bout of work blues. It’s also been fairly difficult, what with the whole pandemic thing in 2020 and all.

We’re constantly connected to work through emails on our phones. We’re always chasing down leads or ideas or working on grand plans on the outskirts of what we are trying to achieve.

But you have to take time out for you, else you become some husk, some shell of what you need to be and let me tell you, both your productivity and your emotional, mental or physical health could suffer.

How do you stop the niggling feeling of what you need to do pressing on you when you try to relax?

Here are some simple tips to reduce stress during the working day

Put that music on loud and walk fast

I have rediscovered the joy of walking to meetings or catch ups, or even just taking  a walk after dinner. It has really, really helped clear my head and help me disconnect my work day (which is in my living room) from my evenings off (which is also usually held in my living room).

You can incorporate walking to reduce stress in the following ways:

  • If you get stuck on a problem, take a walk around the block to unwind
  • Once you finish a meeting or a training session at your computer, take a walk
  • Instead of having a coffee or lunch meeting, hold a walking meeting
  • If you’re working from home, mark the end of the day with a walk to set a boundary

Get away from that desk

In order to reduce stress we often do things like lie in a hammock. This is a shot of two such hammocks at sunset between two trees in Glasgow.

Photo by Chris Thomspon via Unsplash

Freelancers often work from home and many more people have joined us this year. One thing you can count on to reduce stress is to reduce the amount of time you are connected to your desk.

Make sure you take the opportunity to do a desk disconnect. A study published in 2016 found that sitting at your desk all day had the equivalent impact on your health as smoking. Actively seek out opportunities to move away from your desk and get moving changes the game entirely. In fact, a short circuit on an exercise bicycle or a brisk walk for half an hour can reverse the negative impact.

What are some of the ways you can spend less time at the desk and reduce stress on your body?

  • Exercise at lunch time
  • If you’re working from home, do house chores that make you move around in between tasks
  • Walk to and from work if possible – or get off the bus or train one stop earlier to get some walking in
  • Set the CD player up at the other end of the room so you need to get up to change the music ever 45 minutes to an hour
  • Embrace productivity techniques like Pomodoro and switch up what you’re doing
  • Use a yoga ball instead of a chair to work on your core
  • Try a treadmill desk
  • Consider using a standing desk

Fear the Creeper

When I find myself on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and flicking in between, this is time for another break. As addictive, fun and productive feeling as these activities are, its time to remember that beyond the odd link for business, being a major player in the world of Facebook does not a career make.

The problem with being unproductive is that it grows to envelope the whole day. Then it becomes difficult to reduce stress because we can see the time ebb away. Not only that but the tasks we need to get done simply grow. It’s OK to take a short break and do something that isn’t the priority to break the cycle and reinvigorate yourself again.

Some ideas you can try to break the grazing social media habits are:

  • Have a dirty list of short win, scrappy tasks in your top drawer that you can pull out. Cross a few off and move on
  • Do something that has been hanging around, waiting to be done for too long. Write that blog post you have been putting off or schedule social media
  • Get out your scratch pad and nut out an idea you’d like to try
  • Do your accounting. It has to be done sometime, right?
  • Take a moment to consider why you’re drifting the first place. Are you overdue for a break? Bored by what you’re doing? Waiting on something that may not come? Think about why you are distracted and see what you can do to change it

Focus on your own race

A lot of our self doubt and problems creep up when we compare our progress to others. How to be a freelancer isn’t clearly defined. What is the most excellent way to market yourself as a small business or start-up isn’t set in stone.

And that’s the beauty of it. A bunch of other people may have opinions on what you should be doing. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Design the kind of working life you want to enjoy. Reduce stress by working on the things you care about.

Here are some of the attitude challenges you can try to reduce stress and focus on your own progress:

  • Do you know what is going on behind the scenes of someone else’s business? Then why are you comparing yourself to an incomplete picture?
  • Marketing is about standing out from the crowd and attracting attention. Why then are you boring yourself to death with other people’s marketing ideas?
  • Are you excited by what you are doing or are you simply floating? And if it is the former, how can you change it up?
  • Do you know the person commenting is uniquely qualified to talk about your business? Or are they telling you that they know all the ins and outs?

Let your values and purpose guide you

The follow your passion answer may be a little too glib. But we do connect better and find more focus as well as reduce stress when we’re aligned with our values and feel like our work has purpose. If you throw yourself into a creative project or cause, it can really help you gain perspective.

As hard as your life may seem at times, being around inspiring people or people who face situations worse than your own can really reset your mental clock pretty damn quick and ignite something a lot more positive.

How can you reconnect with your purpose and values?

  • Write a list of values you know people admire about you- and the ones you’d like to be known for in the future. Map your way to maintaining those values in your working life
  • Ask yourself what you’d like to be remembered for. Legacy has a great way of clarifying what we want to focus on day-to-day
  • Take notice of what you do for the people you work for and with. Is there anything you would change?

 

Be creative

Yes, I know, with a business called Unashamedly Creative, of course I am going to advocate for any opportunity to exercise creativity. But it doesn’t make it any less true. Creativity is a great way to reduce stress and make yourself feel confident and connected with productivity.

In our working lives, it can be tempting to over think things, not allow time for creativity, to be caught up in day to day life… but the process is only as hard as you make it, trust me- no excuses!

Some of the ways you can reduce stress with work-related creativity include:

  • Spending time cleaning out old ideas to make room for new ones
  • Rewriting and updating old content like blogs
  • Brainstorming new ideas for products, promotions and more
  • Researching and exploring new concepts and industry movements
  • Playing with new tools and software

Screw work

The To Do List grows and grows until you feel like you’re underneath it trying to breathe. Or every minute you spend doing something is filled with guilt and resistance. You keep grasping for that mythical “one more hour, one more page” inspiration.

Sound familiar?

The reality is though the human brain is not designed to be connected to the work world 24/7. Your eyes cannot handle staring at a screen all day. Your back isn’t designed to be sitting at a desk all the time. Your mind loses focus after a while. You cannot ask your brain to reduce stress when it never, ever gets away from it.

Do yourself a favour by taking a break, having a day off, enjoying your mornings or evenings because you will feel better and be more productive. Having time off is part of making sure you can do great work later.

 

The standard list of what you should and shouldn’t do (which I haven’t quite cracked as routine yet):

  • Cut out caffeine (makes the motor rev)
  • Reduce your alcohol intake (makes the motor rev the day after)
  • Eat better
  • Try something new (head here, check out stuff, try it and feel awesome doing it)
  • Play with a pet (thank you Gibson and George for being so truly wagtastic on hard days!)
  • Listen to music

The bottom line, take time out for YOU!

 

If you are feeling stressed and need more help, also contact the super awesome people at WayAhead. 

Want more advice on how to reduce stress? Check out my freelance life section now!

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