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Is Your Office Space Stressing You Out? Here are 5 Tips to Declutter And Destress

Is Your Office Space Stressing You Out? Here are 5 Tips to Declutter And Destress

A recent survey found that as many as 8 in 10 Americans are stressed out about their jobs. That means, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your work is causing you stress.

But why is work so stressful? For a lot of people, just the idea of going to the office causes angst. In fact, as many as 78% of people get Sunday night anxiety about going to work on Monday. The problem could be the office space itself. It could be that it’s too small, too cluttered, and too loud. This may not sound like much, but for many, this can be the root cause of workplace stress. Studies have shown that your environment affects your mood and your health, so creating the a positive office environment might be the key to getting rid of some of your stress.

If your office space is stressing you out, try out these 5 ideas and see if you can’t transform your environment (and your mood) for the better:

1. Declutter your desk

You may have heard the old Einsteinism, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

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Proponents of this way of thinking will often tell you that people with messy desks are more creative. This may be true, but it’s good to remember that they’re not creative because of their messy desks, it’s just that creative people tend to be disorganized. Messy people also tend to be more stressed than they appear. Maybe that’s why, in her book, “The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, Marie Kondo says that “visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.” So organize your desk! How you do so is up to you—it’s the thought that counts. People with organized desks are often:

  • Less likely to commit a crime
  • Less likely to litter
  • More likely to show generosity
  • More likely to give to charity

The above traits are all associated with happy, unstressed people.

2. Get organized online

No one likes working with a control freak, but maintaining a level of control in your life (and in your office) matters to your mental health. Even small degrees of control, especially in chaotic office environments, can make all the difference in lowering stress.

This is also true for digital spaces. Try to find a place for everything you use online and use software that helps you stay organized. This may sound obvious, but so many people function with disorganized file folders and inefficient routines. This will help you develop better digital habits that make things more streamlined in future.

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In addition, organizing your day the night before (with calendars and blocks of time), can help you break things down into digestible chunks that are less intimidating.

You might even end up saving yourself a lot of time. The 40-hour work week is a relic. People are working an extra 7 hours a week on average, with nearly 1 in 5 working over 60 hours a week. A little more organization could go a long way towards a shorter work day.

3. Don’t rely on caffeine

Offices promote some very unhealthy behavior in Americans. Bad posture and bad vision are often the easiest to identify, but few people point out one of the greatest offenders: the coffee pot.

On average, Americans drink 3.1 cups of coffee a day. That’s quite a lot of caffeine. While we all need a burst of energy sometimes, but coffee might not be the best place to get it. Studies show that caffeine from coffee lasts longer than we thought and can be a leading cause of compounding stress. So the more trips you make to the coffee machine, the more stress builds up inside. It’s worth exploring options that keep your body and brain decluttered. If you’re suffering from a lack of energy, your problem might just be a lack of vitamin D.

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4. Schedule out-of-office time

Taking breaks for your brain is good. When you take a break, you deactivate your brain. When you return, you activate it. This back and forth allows you to refocus your goals and not overthink anything.

Studies have also shown that people who give themselves time for a 30-minute walking break from work were generally more enthusiastic and relaxed while being less stressed. And you shouldn’t just take small breaks, either—4 in 10 americans don’t take their full vacation time. This is a big mistake. Take your vacations. They’re good for you!

5. Find a quiet space

For focused, highly productive work—it’s best to find a quiet space to think. But that can be difficult when 70% of companies feature an open-floor plan. This can lead to a lot of stress. In this digital age of hyper-productivity, we require quite, relaxed spaces without distractions to think and function. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of every quiet space you can around the office. Otherwise, the overwhelming white noise might just drown you out your thoughts.

But those spaces may not be in your office, or even in the same building. If that’s the case, you might think about taking “off-sites” once in awhile. A change of scenery can be the best way to boost your productivity.

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Moving on, without stress

Your environment matters. Whether it’s a cluttered desk, a noisy office, or just antsy, caffeine-addicted coworkers that can’t stop watching YouTube videos, our office environment greatly impacts our work productivity.

The secret to staying decluttered and destressed is to recognize the impact that clutter and stress has on you, take positive steps to reduce that impact. This will help you live as healthy and stress-free a life as possible.

Featured photo credit: https://picjumbo.com/ via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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