Let’s be honest — we all wish that every day could be casual Friday. And sure, sometimes you might dream about quitting your desk job to travel the world, but in reality, most of us spend a lot of time putting in work at our desks. Whether you’re a #girlboss crushing it at a nine-to-five or a freelancer working solo, it can be hard to leave work stress where it belongs… at the office. We caught up with Dr. Pete Sulack, an expert on stress and the creator ofStressRX.com to get some advice for making sure stress isn’t following you back to your apartment.
1. Get some perspective. You’ve heard it said: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And honestly, it’s ALL small stuff! While work responsibilities are of course a huge deal, they’re really a minor detail in the larger scheme of life. Dr. Sulack suggests taking a step back from your problems to realize that they’re all a result of blessings. He breaks down some examples, saying, “Have job stress? That means you have a job. Broke a heel on your shoe? That means you have shoes. Been given a huge project? That means you have a boss who trusts you. Stop and remind yourself of these things when you feel stressed.” We’re feelin’ better already.
2. Stop packing your schedule with back-to-back activities. Staying active, but giving yourself some time to breathe between hustling is the best way to build margin, which is the opposite of being overloaded. Margin is also something that you get long-term benefits from. Dr. Sulack says, “Margin is like money in the bank that you can use for a rainy day. When you habitually add margin to your life, you have reserves left over for when things get hairy.” So, if you’re constantly running low on sleep or are dependent on an afternoon coffee to get you through the day, it might be time to add some margin to your bank by cutting some things out of your life that take up too much time, money and/or energy.
3. Practice gratitude. Dr. Sulack mentions that people who tend to be more cynical have more than a two-and-a-half-time greater risk of developing dementia than those who regularly give gratitude. One reason is that cynicism is chronic anger — anger that simmers on the back burner for a lifetime and causes constant stress. It’s also bankrupt idealism — the loss of hope. Dr. Sulack adds, “The most stressful thing for the mind of a human is to be without hope. The secret of happiness is contentment, and the way to be content is to practice gratitude. Choosing to be grateful in all of the ups and downs of life is a proven way to increase energy and counterbalance the stress of life.” Even after a particularly awful day at the office, make a habit of writing down three things or people you’re thankful for on your commute home.
4. Move your body. It probably comes as no surprise, but workers now spend more time sitting than they do sleeping, and we’re all feeling the effects (you know… backaches, tension headaches and that 3pm sluggishness). Dr. Sulack advises finding a regular workout routine, saying, “Regular functional and fun movement like sports, swimming, walking, bicycling and dancing counterbalance the stress of the hours you spend in an office chair, the car and on the couch. Exercise relieves stress and tension by flooding your system with endorphins — those happy hormones that let you know that yes, everything really will be okay.”