Resolution #3: Learn 21 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Workday

stack of rocksExcerpt from Mindfulness and Mastery in the Workplace: 21 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Workday by Saki F. Santorelli, EdD, MA, Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Throughout your day, consider these ideas to reduce stress.

  1. Take five to 30 minutes in the morning to be quiet and meditate. Sit or lie down, and be with yourself. Gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of nature or take a slow quiet walk.
  2. While your car is warming up, take a minute to quietly pay attention to your breathing.
  3. While driving, become aware of body tension (e.g., hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, shoulders raised, stomach tight, etc.). Consciously work at releasing/dissolving that tension. Does being tense help you drive better? What does it feel like to relax and drive?
  4. Decide not to play the radio, and be with yourself.
  5. On the interstate, experiment with riding in the right lane, going five miles below the speed limit.
  6. Pay attention to your breathing and to the sky, trees or quality of your mind when stopped at a red light or toll plaza.
  7. Take a moment to orient yourself to your workday once you park your car. Use the walk across the parking lot to step into your life. Know where you are and where you are going.
  8. While sitting at your desk, keyboard, etc., pay attention to bodily sensations, again consciously attempting to relax and rid yourself of excess tension.
  9. Use your breaks to truly relax rather than simply pausing. For instance, instead of having coffee or reading, take a short walk or sit at your desk and renew yourself.
  10. At lunch, changing your environment can be helpful.
  11. Try closing your door (if you have one), and take some time to consciously relax.
  12. Decide to stop for one to three minutes every hour during the work day to regroup and recoup. Become aware of your breathing and bodily sensations, allowing the mind to settle.
  13. Use the everyday cues in your environment as reminders to center yourself (e.g., the telephone ringing, sitting at the computer terminal, etc.).
  14. Take some time at lunch or other moments in the day to speak with close associates. Try choosing topics that are not necessarily work related.
  15. Choose to eat one or two lunches per week in silence. Use this as a time to eat slowly and be with yourself.
  16. At the end of the workday, try retracing today’s activities acknowledging and congratulating yourself for what you’ve accomplished, and then make a list for tomorrow. You’ve done enough for today!
  17. Pay attention to the short walk to your car, breathing the crisp or warm air. Feel the cold or warmth of your body. What might happen if you opened up to and accepted these environmental conditions and bodily sensations rather than resisting them? Listen to the sounds outside your work place. Can you walk without feeling rushed? What happens when you slow down?
  18. At the end of the workday, while your car is warming up, sit quietly and consciously make the transition from work to home. Take a moment to simply “be,” and enjoy it for a moment. Like most of us, you’re heading into your next full-time job – home!
  19. While driving, notice if you are rushing. What does this feel like? What could you do about it? Remember, you’ve got more control than you might imagine.
  20. When you pull into the driveway or park on the street, take a minute to orient yourself to being with your family members or to entering your home.
  21. Try changing out of work clothes when you get home. Take five minutes for a simple act that might help you make a smoother transition into your next “role.” Say hello to each of your family members or to the people you live with. Take a moment to look in their eyes. If possible, make the time to take five to 10 minutes to be quiet and still. If you live alone, feel what it’s like to enter the quietness of your home, the feeling of entering your own environment.

Join the conversation. Share your ideas on reducing stress in the workplace.

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