How to Stay Calm at Work
By Deanna deBara Posted October 19, 2020
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it—being too stressed out at work just isn’t good for you. Not only can stress hinder your productivity, but it can actually damage your health. In fact, one study from researchers at Harvard and Stanford found that workplace stress is just as damaging to your health as second-hand smoke.
If you want to stay happy, healthy, and productive at work, you need to keep stress to a minimum and remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the day.
But how, exactly, do you do that?
Let’s take a look at four strategies you can use to stay calm at work (and increase productivity in the process):
Set yourself up for a calm workday with the right morning routine...
In many ways, how you start your day is how you continue your day. So, suppose you start your day feeling frazzled and overwhelmed (for example, by jumping into work emails the second you open your eyes in the AM). In that case, chances are, you’re going to carry those stressful feelings with you throughout your workday.
But the opposite is also true—so, if you want to have a more calm experience at work, try kicking your day off with a morning routine that makes you feel relaxed, centered, and at peace.
What you do in your morning routine is up to you; you can start your day with a workout, a few minutes of meditation, or some quiet reading. But whatever activity you choose, make sure it’s relaxing, purposeful, and puts you in a state of calm. The consistency also helps avoid making unnecessary decisions, which can lead to decision fatigue.
The more relaxed you feel when you start the day, the more you set yourself up to feel calm throughout the day—and the easier it will be to stay calm at work.
...and a plan for the day.
A large part of staying calm at work is minimizing stressful situations; if there’s nothing to stress you out, it’s easier to remain calm throughout the day.
And one of the strategies for keeping stress at bay during your workday? Proper planning.
When you take the time to plan out your workday, you have more control over how you’re spending your time—which can make you feel less rushed, hurried, and stressed out overall.
For example, let’s say you have an important presentation you need to finish by EOD. When you make a plan for your day, you can set aside your most productive hours (like 10am to 12pm) to work on the project and make sure you get it done well before your deadline, making you feel calmer more in control. On the flip side, if you don’t make a plan for your day, you could easily get pulled into other tasks and then find yourself scrambling to get it done at 4pm—a much more stressful scenario.
The point is, when you plan your workday, you have more control over how you’re spending your time, energy, and resources. That control can make for a less stressful (and more calm) experience at work.
Note: If you're looking for more general advice about planning, check out our recent blog post "How to Plan."
You might think that answering your emails while sitting on a conference call is making productive use of your time. The truth is, multitasking just doesn’t work.
According to research (outlined in an infographic featured on Mashable), a whopping 98 percent cannot multitask effectively. And trying to do too many things at once can cause severe issues with focus and attention, dropping IQ by as much as 10 points (the equivalent of missing a full night’s sleep!) This sleep deprivation results in a 40 percent drop in productivity.
Basically, multitasking can make it harder to finish tasks quickly and effectively. The longer and more challenging it is to get things done at work, the more stressed out you will feel.
So, if you want to stay calmer throughout your workday, stop trying to do everything at once. Minimize distractions and focus on one task at a time. The more focus and attention you devote to each task, the more productive and efficient you’ll be—and the less stressful work will feel as a result.
Take a breathing break.
It’s essential to take as many steps as possible to reduce stress at work. But no one (and no work situation) is perfect—and, chances are, at some point during the day, you’re going to find yourself in a stressful situation.
It’s what you do in response to that stressful situation that will dictate how calm you’re able to stay at work. And if you want to remain calm in the face of stress, one of the best (and easiest!) things you can do?
Take a deep breath—or, more accurately, take a few deep breaths (or what we like to call a “breathing break”).
Deep breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) has a host of calming benefits. Deep breathing triggers your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, moving your body from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest” mode. Rest and digest mode means lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of cortisol (AKA the “stress hormone”)—and making you feel significantly calmer—in the process.
If you find yourself feeling stressed at work, take a breathing break. Lie on the floor or sit in a comfortable chair and inhale through your nose for a count of five, breathing deep into your belly. Then exhale through your nose for another count of five. (If you’re not sure if you’re breathing deeply enough, put a hand on your belly. You should feel it rise with the inhale and lower with the exhale.) Take at least five deep inhales and exhales.
By the end of your breathing break, you should be feeling calmer—and better able to manage whatever work situation left you feeling not-so-calm, to begin with.
Stay calm (and productive) at work.
When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work, it’s hard to be engaged or productive. But with these tips, you have everything you need to stay calm throughout the workday—and increase your productivity and effectiveness in the process.
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