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How to Relieve Stress at Work

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I was on a meeting with my boss the other day when he said to me, “Believe it or not, as the project manager you should be more stressed out than anyone—stress is a good thing!” To which I replied in my head, “What? Since when is stress a good thing? If I am stressed out, doesn’t that mean I don’t have all the projects under control?”


I’ve always been a calm, quiet person, and when I’m stressed, I don’t typically run around flailing my arms, yelling obscenities, and sweating from head to toe. My stress episodes usually involve getting even quieter, until I feel the tears coming and retreat to my car to scream and vent to my mom for an hour. Now that I think of it—sort of reminds me of my first day of Kindergarten. Anyway, because of this I’m pretty sure my boss thinks he needs to do anything it takes to make me more visibly “stressed out,” but I refuse to give in. Here’s some tactics I’ve been using lately that have kept me from pulling a Scarface in Half Baked


1. Take a break: Whether it’s walk outside or reading the news online, taking your mind off of the stressful situation helps. I prefer walking outside and getting some fresh air—it’s an instant relief.


2. Think before you say anything: Under stress it can be easy to blurt out whatever is on your mind. Ten minutes later, telling your boss, “I did not get a degree in picking up sandwiches!” will not seem like the best idea. 


3. Delegate: Don’t be afraid to ask for help—trying to juggle all of the tasks yourself will make you more stressed and less productive.


4. Exercise: Honestly, this is the best stress-reliever. Whether it’s going to the gym or taking a walk or run outside, it will clear your mind and blow off steam. 


5. Clear your desk and desktop: As the saying goes, “A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.” When your desk and computer are in disarray and you’re constantly searching for lost papers and files, it can be even more stressful. Make a folder that says “to file” on your desktop and put all of the scattered files in there for later organizing. And even if it takes sacrificing a lunch break, file all of your papers. 


6. Only focus on one thing at once: Even if you have ten projects to do in an hour, take a breath and devote a little time to only thinking and working on one project. Be honest, and if you cannot accomplish everything let your boss and clients know ahead of time. 


7. Get a little rowdy after work: No I don’t mean have ten beers and punch in windows. Watch a sports game with friends, join a community sports league, go to a concert, even watch The Bachelor (guilty)—any situation where it’s sociably acceptable to scream and yell in public or at your TV. 


8. Be realistic: If you have five arms and two brains skip this one, but if not realize that you are only one person and can do so much. Don’t stress yourself out by overpromising. Break things into smaller, reasonable tasks that can be accomplished.


9: Try relaxation techniques: Breath deeply and count to ten (or one hundred depending on how stressful you are) and transport yourself to a happier place where there are no ten-hour work days or micromanaging bosses. Try drinking a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea.


10. My favorite mantra which I say over and over to myself when I’m stressed is a quote I heard from The Secret: “Life isn’t nearly as serious as my mind makes it out to be.” Realistically the world isn’t going to end if I send an email ten minutes late, or forget to send something to a client (once not 500 times mind you). Yes, it will have repercussions and both parties will be mad but my life and theirs will not end over one slip up. We will persevere …


Now back to my cup of tea and happy place.

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