If you’re reading this, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed with work. And you’re not alone — more than 92 per cent of Singapore’s workforce reported feeling stressed or burned out at work, according to the 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey.
It’s inevitable to feel stressed at work, especially in our fast-paced society. But if it’s not managed properly, stress can affect your physical health and cause mental distress, affect your concentration and lower your morale. Stress can also affect your loved ones, because you may become down and irritable. So the next time you’re feeling the pressure, try one of these easy techniques and go from this:
Text: Sasha Gonzales & Hazel Joanne Vincent De Paul & Elizabeth Liew
According to studies conducted by the University of Maryland, acupuncture is believed to help relieve stress. But instead of booking an appointment with the acupuncturist, take a few minutes to massage the fleshy spot between your thumb and index finger or the hollow spot right below your sternum. Alternatively, stash a mini reflexology stress-relief ball in your drawer and use it to massage your palms, neck, arms and feet throughout the day.
It’s a common habit to spill the tea on what’s happening in the office when you’re out for lunch with your colleagues, but more often than not, this can add on to any stress or worries you may have about work. Instead, optimise your hour-long break with light-hearted topics for your lunch conversations instead of focusing on work.
And choose your office buddies carefully — gossipy, back-stabbing colleagues are stressful. They sap your energy and fill your mind with negative thoughts. Tracy Chong, principal career coach at Passions Work, advises being around co-worker you find positive and supportive. “These people will help and encourage you, and inspire you to do your best work, unlike toxic ones, who are only concerned about dwelling on problems in the office,” she says.
There’s no simpler way to beat stress than to focus on your breathing. In fact, studies show that taking slow, deep breaths can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate while calming your mind.
“Breathing deeply help you calm and centre yourself so you can observe what is happening inside and outside you, and respond appropriately to it,” says Julia Ng, a professional certified coach at Executive Coach International. “It allows you to slow down enough to notice that your body is tensing up and spot triggers that can cause you to do something drastic, so you can do something about it.”
Top tip: Give alternate nostril breathing a go when you’re feeling overwhelmed in the office. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly through one nostril, while blocking the other nostril with your finger. Alternate your nostrils and practice this breathing technique for five minutes to feel the difference.
Instead of losing your temper when facing an obstacle, train your mind to flip the script by replacing a negative thought with three simple, positive ones. The technique helps rewire the way your mind approaches a situation and veer away from negativity. You can also employ a little creative visualisation. The next time you’re reaching breaking point, take a deep breath, close your eyes and think of a scenario that makes you happy. It’s an instant mood boost each time you feel tense.
A little alone time when you’re unable to focus or feeling out of sorts can help organise your thoughts. “It’s better to have a long and fulfilling career that is sustainable rather than moving full-steam ahead, only to realise later that you cannot keep up with the pace,” says Tracy. “What’s the point of making it up to the top of the career ladder and have poor health?” Tracy suggests taking breaks every 30 to 45 minutes.
Do some simple stretching at your desk or chat with your colleague, just to break away from your work routine. Or seek out a little nook within your office that’s quiet and soothing and head there the next time you find yourself looking for a little clarity. Take 10 minutes to clear your head before heading back to your desk. You can also consider heading outdoors for a quick breather, as studies have shown that exposure to sunlight can help boost your spirits.
Neuroscientists at Princeton University in the United States found that clutter at your office desk decreased performance and increased stress. There’s nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with inspirational things, says Julia. But when you have too many items around you, they start competing for your attention.
Clutter takes up mental and emotional space, overloads your senses and impairs your ability to process information and focus. “So clean your desk, throw away things you no longer need and organise your files can help you feel more clearer and more settled.” The key lies in creating the space that offers the right amount of stimulation to do your job well. Take a few minutes each morning to organise your desk before you begin the day’s work for a stress-free start to your day. Or get your hands on these desk organisers!
Aromatherapy is thought to help minimise pain, headaches, anxiety and agitation. So the next time you’re out shopping, treat yourself to a diffuser and soothing essential oils, which you can use while you’re at your desk. But if you’d rather not add more clutter to your desk, simply splash a few drops of your favourite essential oil into your palms and inhale.
Tracy says you’ll be surprised at how saying “no” can help you manage your stress levels at work. If you agree to take on more than you can handle, you will feel overwhelmed and burn out. “Learn to say no right from the start. Otherwise, let your boss or colleagues know that you will check your schedule and get back to them. If what they’re requesting can’t be done, let them know and explain why.”
READ MORE: How To Say No Without Offending People
It can be hard to say no when your employer entrusts you with a large stack of projects, but the easiest way to cope with this is to identify the most important tasks on your list and focus on those first.
Julia suggests prioritising your tasks and giving each one your full attention before moving onto the next one. “Many ‘urgent’ tasks take us away from more important long-term objectives. Some urgency is good to give us a boost in performance, but too much adrenaline creates more stress. The reality is not everything is urgent or necessarily important, so plan what’s important, not urgent,” she says.
Mastering this technique will be easier if you minimise distractions along the way, too. For example, allocate certain times of the day to check and respond to emails instead of attending to it every time a notification pops up. This will keep you focused on the tasks at hand, allowing you to clear your daily to-do list more efficiently.
It’s hard to get work done if you keep getting interrupted. This can leave you feeling like you’ve lost control over your schedule. List your most common distractions and figure out how to eliminate, minimise or get around these time-wasters. For instance, if you need some peace and quiet because you need to get something important done, Tracy suggests booking a separate meeting room and letting your colleague know you are unavailable for a couple of hours.
A person with a victim mentality is constantly complaining and laying blame as she feels powerless about her situation or life, says Julia. She even makes things out to be worse than they actually are, which adds to unnecessary stress. Choose to be in a more empowered position.
“For example, be grateful for the challenge in front of you instead of complaining that it’s too much work and too difficult. You could also be grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow instead of complaining that your boss gives you brutally honest feedback. Being grateful is about saying yes to life.”