In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we’re sharing tips and facts. Mental health is a topic that may not be promoted, talked about, or even thought about much at most offices. But it’s one that affects all workers and all workplaces, across all industries. And it’s time to talk about it.
Deadlines, conference calls, projects, emails—if you feel like your to-do list is constantly expanding, you’re not the only one. We all seem to have more to do than ever these days, and the CDC estimates that up to 40 percent of American workers feel “extremely stressed” at work.
Stress isn’t just a minor annoyance; it’s actually a major health hazard. Chronic stress can contribute to issues such as headaches, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, and weakened immunity. It can also lead to serious health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease.
But there’s one secret to keep in mind: You can control your thoughts and actions, and in turn, take control of your stress levels. It may be easier said than done, but we all know that one person at work who manages to stay cool, calm, and collected, even in the midst of a major issue. Well, that can be you!
We did some digging to find out how they stay calm all day long, and these are some of the habits they follow. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try one (or all) of them—you may surprised at how much they help!
1. Create a calm morning routine.
It’s super important to start off your day on the right foot. Instead of rushing around at home, grabbing a donut and a sugary coffee, and then getting stuck in traffic, try getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual. This will allow you time to be more mindful in the morning, prepare a healthy breakfast, and not have road-rage all the way to work. A smoother morning equals less stress all day.
2. Clear off your desk.
It’s true: A clear desk = a clear mind. When your desk is covered in clutter and your inbox is overflowing, it’s difficult to focus, and it can add to your stress. Feeling overwhelmed just looking at the papers and pens piled on your desk? Don’t worry! We’ve broken it down into seven easy steps to follow that will completely revamp your desk space—find them here.
3. Take a deep breath.
Yep, beating stress is as simple as breathing! Deep breathing is a scientifically proven way to help you calm down and re-center you mind, fast. Don’t need to worry about counting out a certain number of breaths; instead just focus on evenly inhaling and exhaling for a couple minutes.
4. Just do something.
If you get that panicky, freaked-out feeling at your desk, take a second to stand up and walk away. Whether you just throw away a piece of trash, make a cup of tea, or talk to a coworker, this can help distract your mind and gives you a sense of control.
5. Head outdoors.
One of the best ways to stop stress in its tracks is to head outside and take a 10-minute walk in the fresh air. Getting outside is a proven way to feel less anxious and stressed. (Read more about the amazing benefits of outdoor exercise for your body and mind.)
6. Straighten up.
Not just your desk—but also your spine! Improving your posture provides a physical antidote the hunched-over position we often take when we’re stressed out. When you straighten your back and pull your shoulders back, it helps your body and mind feel like they’re back in control.
7. Avoid the candy bowl.
We’ve all been tempted to reach for a Snicker’s bar when we’re stressed out. But sugar isn’t the best thing to eat during tough times. Sugar snacks can do more harm than good, as research shows that eating too much sugar can worsen feelings of anxiety and stress. Instead of reaching into the candy bowl, drink a glass of water or eat protein, which will provide a slow energy your body can use to recover.
8. Fact-check your thoughts.
Say you’re nervous about a big presentation at work. Rather than think, “This is going to be terrible,” for example, say, “I’m nervous, but I’m prepared. Some things will go well, and some may not.” she suggests. Getting into a pattern of rethinking your fears helps train your brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts.
9. Watch a funny YouTube video.
Sometimes, just a laugh is the perfect prescription for a stressed-out state of mind. Watch a clip of your favorite comedian at work, or cue up a funny Netflix show when you get home after work. Research shows that laughter has lots of benefits for our mental health and well-being; one study found that humor could help lower anxiety as much as (or even more than) exercise can.
Sammy is the COO and Co-Founder of Fitspot. Sammy is an attention-to-detail aficionado who brings a blend of grit and imagination to the zillions of tasks that confront every startup. She has always thrived in operations, working as a production assistant in LA and managing operations in the fashion industry. Sammy wears many hats at Fitspot, doing everything from sketching app screens to managing the customer experience. Sammy has a B.F.A. from the University of Miami, and hails from Australia.