If only the days, weeks, or months were longer! We’re so conditioned to be on the go 24/7 that even if it were possible to extend time, we’d likely still feel it isn’t enough. We’re working longer hours, taking less vacation, and not getting enough sleep. This lifestyle can lead to stress, burnout, depression, and overall declining health.
If we make the time to step away from our work, we can break free from this cycle and take the time we need to decompress. Life gets a whole lot better when our stress levels are lower. Here are four easy ways to change up your routine to reduce stress at work.
Spend time outside.
Even if it’s only for a quick break, getting out of your office for some fresh air does wonders to help you decompress. Not only does it force you to step away from your work, it helps you clear your mind. To best reap the benefits of fresh air, put down your cell phone and be present in your surroundings. Look around and try to notice the smallest details. Listen to the sounds that you hear. Allow your mind to wander, but make sure you don’t think about work.
Studies show that spending time in nature works wonders for restoring mental health, decreasing stress, lowering blood pressure, and overall creating a better sense of wellbeing. The Japanese have a practice for this called shinrin-yoku, which translates roughly to forest bathing. Shinrin-yokucombines meditation with walking to help you focus and find balance.
To mimic the benefits of walking in the forest, bring nature to you. Adding pops of greenery to your daily life can help reduce stress. Get a plant or flowers for your desk to look at when you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. If the weather isn’t great and you can’t go outside, you can still get some benefit from sitting by a window.
Break free from your usual schedule.
We fall into the same patterns and routines daily. We run through the day on autopilot simply going through the motions. Switch things up a bit by making adjustments to your routine. This tricks your brain into thinking you’re doing something new and you’ll be more focused because of that. These adjustments don’t have to be big, in fact, smaller is better because that allows you to change things up more often.
Try taking a different route to or from work. If you drive, try to find a more scenic way. If you take public transit, get off one stop earlier and walk. Try showering at night instead of in the morning. Stop at a different coffee shop. Take a look at your workplace routine and change the order of how you do things. The possibilities are endless.
Get in some exercise.
As little as 10 minutes of exercise gets you going and can boost your brainpower. Any form of exercise releases endorphins, our body’s natural feel-good booster that helps to reduce stress. Taking the time to exercise for 30 minutes or more gives you those boosts plus the added benefit of time to unwind. Try to fit in a burst of exercise on your lunch break, and you’ll notice that you have more energy for the rest of your day.
Figure out what kind of exercise you like to do best. It’s important that you enjoy the type of exercise you’re doing, otherwise, it just feels like more work. If you don’t have time to go to the gym or take classes, there’s a wealth of resources available online with videos that walk you through full workouts. There are even exercises designed to be done right at your desk.
Step away from the technology!
We’re on our devices for a staggering number of hours per day. Some shocking figures show that on average, people check their phones 80 times per day, and for Millennials and Gen Z, that number nearly doubles to 150 times per day. How do you distance yourself from your device?
Block out times where you won’t check your phone or tablet. There’s a great app to help you do that called Forest. You start the app and it grows a virtual tree – the longer you go, the bigger it gets and the more points you earn. Leave the app and your tree dies. It’s a fun way to keep yourself in check, and even better, the points you earn can be used to plant a real tree through Forest’s partner organization! That’s a great motivator to go phone free for as long as possible.
If you commit to doing at least one of these things every day, you’ll start to see an improvement in your stress levels within a couple of weeks. Challenge yourself to incorporate as many small changes as possible into your routine to explore what else you can do to lower your stress levels even more.