Before we get to my list of ways to decrease stress, I want to debunk some myths.
First of all, stress at the workplace does not always cause unhappiness. Your workplace happiness hinges more on whether or not you like your work than on whether or not your work is stressful, according to Alan Krueger, professor at Princeton University.
That said, declaring that you thrive under stress is a delusional justification for procrastination. Sure, there are people who can’t figure out how to deliver on anything until the last minute. But this is a crisis in confidence (fear of starting for fear of failing) as opposed to stunning brilliance unlocked by stress.
And let’s get something straight about bringing pets to work. Employees love a dog at the office, but there is not evidence that dogs at work decrease stress. There is only evidence that they make people work longer hours at the office. So maybe life would get less stressful for dog lovers if you leave the pets at home, work fewer hours and get a social life.
Here’s why decreasing stress matters to me: People who are less stressed exude more confidence than people who are more stressed. I do everything in my life better when I am feeling more self-confident, and I bet you do, too. So, in an effort to buoy self-confidence, here’s a list of things that will decrease stress at work:
1. Do yoga. In the bathroom.
Of course, doing yoga anywhere is a good idea. But during the workday, tension builds up every hour, and you can’t do real yoga in your cube without calling attention to yourself for being eccentric. So go in the bathroom and do some downward dogs. A few in the middle of the day can relax your body clear your mind and keep productivity and creativity at higher levels. (Hands on the bathroom floor? I’ve been doing it for years and haven’t gotten any diseases. That’s what the soap is for.)
2. Make a friend.
If you have a friend you can depend on at work, you will have less stress and more happiness on the job. If you have trouble making friends, researchers say you should put a plant and some candy on your desk.
Please, I do not want to see one single person commenting on how “young people today text message so much and don’t know how to have relationships.” It’s the baby boomers who have spawned a whole industry about how to make friends, how to control your ego, how to make conversation. Generation Y is already great at doing stuff like that .
3. Fill your downtime carefully.
Running errands during lunch increases stress because you worry about getting back to work in time, according to Dorothy James, professor at Texas A&M University. And if you work at home, beware: People who spend their unscheduled time slots doing housework have greater number of health problems than those who pass the time socializing or exercising, according to the Journal of Occupational Health (in an article I can’t find, but was cited in Self magazine.)
4. Fix your ergonomics.
If your body is a pretzel at a computer your mind starts pretzeling as well, to cope with the physical pain. So, wouldn’t you know it, Google has its own, in-house ergonomics expert to make sure people take care of this stress. If you don’t have a personal ergonomics guru, an easy thing to do is to make sure you use a mouse instead of a touchpad whenever you can. A more difficult thing is to learn to use one of these keyboards that manage to look like they will break your wrists while promising to preserve them.
5. Monitor yourself.
Like everything you might want to change about your life, the more closely you monitor it, the more you’re likely to make the change. So you can gauge how stressed you are by taking this test.
To be honest, though, I didn’t take it myself. Most of the problem behaviors — like “do you set unrealistic deadlines for yourself?” and “do you find yourself overeating?” — were actually integral to my getting this post written.