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Published on January 21, 2021

Here’s What To Do When You Are Getting Exhausted At Work

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Here’s What To Do When You Are Getting Exhausted At Work

Workplace fatigue and exhaustion have been significant issues for decades, way before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to Gallup, 85% of employees report being disengaged or actively disengaged at work, which results in nearly $7 trillion of lost productivity on an annual basis.[1] $7 trillion is lost every year because employees are distracted, disengaged, fatigued, exhausted at work, and essentially prioritizing other tasks to get done while on the company’s clock.

Many Employees Are Becoming Exhausted at Work

How did we get here? A study done by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace uncovered some alarming news. According to their study, 95% of HR leaders stated that employee burnout was sabotaging workforce retention.[2] From the sounds of it, this is a problem for the majority, not just the minority.

Business leaders worldwide are coming to grips with this because these problems aren’t going away anytime soon. These issues have been further projected into the spotlight because of the unprecedented events 2020 placed on our current workforce. Left to their own devices, people are creatures of habit.

At some point in your life, I’m sure you struggled with brushing your teeth and taking a shower in the morning. Hopefully, your parents helped you work through those stages to allow you the time to lay down foundational habits of personal hygiene, which have become automatic at this point in your life. Because of this, I suspect you have no issues brushing your teeth and showering in the morning before getting ready for a workday.

But when was the last time someone gave you instructions and exercises to facilitate your workplace habits of productivity and execution of tasks? Have you ever had anyone give you guidance on this? Most haven’t.

While this appears to be a significant issue in our current workforce, there are viable solutions out there to treat this work-related pandemic as long as you are willing to change your habits and implement simple changes into your daily work life. Even if you decide to implement one of these changes, you could see a significant shift in your productivity and output, potentially setting you up for that next promotion, increased pay, and a higher quality of life.

Unfulfilling Work Can Suck the Life Out of You

The first question you may need to ask yourself is, “Am I doing what I truly love?”

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Unfortunately, that question can only be answered by you, but it’s one of the most simplistic and foundational questions you need to figure out before taking the next step and investing in your future.

A majority of people are unhappy with their jobs, as Gallup found that nearly 70% of correspondents stated that they were unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their current place of work.[3] If you find yourself part of this trend, maybe it’s time for you to look for a new job?

HR Drive conducted a survey and found that half of their respondents stated that they would sacrifice up to 29% of their current pay to work at a job they enjoyed, which clarifies that people are willing to surrender financial gains for personal growth and gratification.[4] If we spend an average of 90,000 hours at work throughout our lifetimes, we need to make sure that we enjoy it and find fulfillment in what we do.[5]

Fatigue Can Signal Poor Health and Nutritional Deficiencies

If switching your career isn’t an option, there are many alternatives to choose from to optimize your energy levels even when you’re exhausted at work. While our workforce and office landscape has completely changed with the stay-at-home orders from COVID-19, we can still implement simple steps to enhance our productivity.

Exhaustion at work isn’t always because of the work itself. It could also be due to poor health and nutritional deficiencies, manifesting as altered cognitive function, poor sleep, and an inability to complete tasks on time.[6] Work merely brings out these inefficiencies and causes further strain on our brains and bodies, which may not have been able to keep up with these demands in the first place.

Nutrition and diet will forever be foundational to our health. Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated back in 440 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Food is the keystone to our overall health and wellbeing—for a good reason. Your food choices influence your immune function via the bacteria living inside your gut, which contains roughly 70% of your body’s immune system.[7]

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Yes, you read that correctly. Your food choices directly affect your immune function!

More importantly, your food choices also affect serotonin production, the feel-good neurotransmitter that becomes skewed in conditions such as depression, anxiety, and different psychiatric disorders. Over 90% of your body’s serotonin production is housed within the gut and influenced by food choices affecting your bacterial profile.

Snacking on healthy foods throughout the day is always an option, but too much food can sway your blood sugar levels and cause daytime sleepiness.

For an even more efficient way to optimize your brain and body, intermittent fasting may be a better approach because it can help you dampen body inflammation, optimize cognitive processing, and even lose weight. Changing your food choices can directly correlate to changes in your mood and energy levels.

Take a Walk to Recharge Your Batteries

At some point, you may become exhausted at work and may need to step away from it to clear your mind. Taking a break from your work can be one of the most efficient means of improving your productivity because it allows the brain to switch gears and change your state of thought. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through physical exercise.

Movement is “the language of the brain,” as Anat Baniel states, and this statement is heavily supported by peer-reviewed literature and evidence-based articles. Exercise can directly influence brain activity through multiple mechanisms, such as increased oxygenation, enhanced gene expression, decreased stress responses, improved processing via the frontal lobe (The CEO of the brain), and optimized blood flow throughout the brain and body.[8]

We also have data showing that different exercise forms can yield different cognitive-based outcomes, specifically relating low-intensity exercise to improved cognitive processing and attention.[9] High-intensity exercise can also play a critical role in optimizing connectivity between networks responsible for affective and emotional processes. The choice is yours to make.

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Exercise isn’t just important for the body; it’s also important for the mind. It can improve your ability to learn and remember information, specifically, because physical movement increases the production of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is responsible for facilitating long-term changes in neural networks and optimizing connections throughout the nervous system.[10]

A 10-minute walk could be the best way to supercharge your productivity and take a much-needed break from your work. Try it out for yourself and see how you feel!

Find Time to Take a Cat Nap

There’s a reason you sleep a third of your life away: It’s vital for high performance and optimal brain function. And while taking a quick nap when you’re exhausted at work may seem counterintuitive for productivity and hitting work goals, the science backs it up.

Sleep disruption can cause significant cognitive and emotional problems, leading to fatigue, brain fog, and altered mental processing.[11] It’s no longer viewed as an option as research shows how important it is for the formation and consolidation of memories, further enhancing our brain’s abilities to learn and create new ways of thinking.

The importance of getting enough sleep at night is rarely disputed, yet taking a quick nap in the afternoon or mid-day could also prove highly beneficial, especially before a big meeting or after studying material for some time. And since 53% of adults nap regularly, there’s a near 50/50 chance you’re in the camp of viewing afternoon naps as a waste of time.[12]

Short bouts of sleep (around 10 minutes) have been experimentally shown to improve alertness and cognitive performance, lasting for up to an hour following a nap.[13] Once again, taking 10 minutes away from your day to focus on optimizing your brain and body could yield significant dividends down the road towards productivity and success in the office.

Putting It All Together

Effective workers don’t work consistently for 8 hours and clock out at the end of the day. Being efficient doesn’t always mean being consistent, so we need to understand how work takes its toll on the brain and body. Most people possess the ability to put in an 8 hours workday in 5-6 hours, especially when you consider that the average worker only works for 2 hours and 23 minutes out of their 8-hour workday.

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Yes, once again, you read that correctly! The rest of their day is used to search the internet, read articles, look for other jobs, and do whatever else workers can get away with while their bosses aren’t looking.

So, if you’re interested in putting in an entire day of work, use your brain and body to your advantage by creating effective daily habits of success. Using science can vastly improve our outcomes and potentially get us an edge to increasing our future earning power while also avoiding getting unnecessarily exhausted at work.

As always, it will be up to you to make it happen.

“You can have results or excuses. Not both.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

More on Regaining Energy

Featured photo credit: Joyce Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Erik Reis

Peak-Performance Leadership Consultant

How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus How To Lead And Manage a Remote Team 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication How To Give An Undivided Attention To Be More Productive

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Last Updated on October 20, 2021

7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

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7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

If you’re trying to be as productive as possible, stress will always be your biggest obstacle—and it’s not an easy one to overcome. To do it, you’ll need to develop a plan to make stress management a core component of your daily routine, but doing that takes commitment. The good news is that if you succeed in learning how to manage stress, you’ll unlock your potential and be well on your way to peak performance. But first, you need to learn how to make it happen.

The best way to do that is to learn about and integrate some stress management rituals into your daily routine. To help you get started, here are seven tips on how to manage stress and improve your productivity.

1. Give Yourself an Extra Hour in the Morning

If you were to do some research on some of the world’s most successful—and productive—people, you’d notice that many of them have one thing in common: they tend to be early risers. Apple’s Tim Cook gets out of bed before 4 AM each day.[1] Michelle Obama is already getting in her daily workout at 4:30 AM.[2] Richard Branson gets up at 5:45 AM each day, even when he’s vacationing on his private island.

There’s a good reason why they all do it—once you reach the point in your day that your work schedule kicks in, you no longer have control of your time. That means you have a limited opportunity every morning to reduce your stress by taking care of the things you need to do without anyone making other demands on your time.

What’s important about this isn’t the time you get up. The important part is getting up early enough to start your day without feeling rushed. For most people, getting up an hour earlier than you normally would is sufficient. This should give you ample time to complete your morning tasks without having to hurry or fall behind.

But when you implement this ritual, be careful. Don’t do it at the cost of getting the right amount of sleep each night. If you do, you might increase your stress instead of relieving it. Sticking to a proper sleep schedule and getting enough sleep is, in itself, a critical part of stress management.[3]

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2. Determine and Review Your Most Important Tasks Each Day

If there’s one productivity tip that almost all experts agree on, it’s that you should spend some time before bed each night to write down your three most important tasks for the following day. But if you want to maximize that practice and turn it into a stress-buster, you should turn that notion on its head.

Instead, you should do this as a part of your morning routine. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s that our always-on, always-connected business world means your priorities can change overnight, literally. You may list your top priorities, go to sleep, and wake up to find them woefully out of date. That means the best time to set your priorities for the day is in the morning. This will keep those priorities up to date and let you think about them before the distractions of the day begin. But don’t stop there. You should take some time before bed each night to review that day’s priorities.

Ideally, you’ll be able to check them off as accomplished. If not, though, think about what prevented you from getting to them. This is your chance to figure out some of the common daily interruptions that get in your way. Chances are, these also cause some of your stress. So, spend the time before bed game-planning how to remove those interruptions and stressors from your day. If you make this a habit, you’ll be more productive and far less stressed out in no time.

3. Save Your Emails for Later in the Morning

Another tip on how to manage stress is to save your emails for later. One of the key causes of stress comes from our inability to cope with the unexpected. If you stop to think about it, what is your most prominent source of near-constant unexpected information every day? You guessed it—it’s your email.

Now, you can’t simply ignore your email. The only thing you can do about your email is to learn how to manage it most effectively. But no matter what you do, it’s going to remain a source of daily stress and distraction. That’s why you should make a habit out of giving yourself an email-free hour or two at the beginning of each day’s schedule.

In that time, try to tackle one of your daily priorities and get it taken care of. Your email will still be there when you’re done. And when you do get to it, you’ll do so in a much better frame of mind knowing that you’ve already gotten some real work done before having to deal with anything unexpected. That alone will improve your mood and reduce the amount of stress you’ll feel—no matter what’s waiting for you in your inbox.

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4. Take a Walk After Email Time

Since you’ll have to deal with your email sooner or later, there’s no way to completely avoid the stress that will come with it. Although you’ll be in a better frame of mind after putting off your email to get some real work done, you’ll still feel some stress when you get to it. That’s why you should make a post-email walk a part of your daily routine.

Taking a walk is one of the best ways you can relieve stress. It’s a form of meditation that will put you back into the right condition to be productive, and there’s no better time to do it each day than after taking care of your emails.

Ideally, you’ll want to take a walk outdoors, and preferably in the most natural setting possible. If you’re in an urban environment, a nearby park will suffice. Studies have demonstrated that walking in such environments for as little as 20 minutes per day leads to an overall reduction in the body’s cortisol level.[4]

Cortisol, if you’re not aware, is your body’s main stress hormone. It helps regulate your blood pressure, energy levels, and even your sleep cycle. Every time your stress goes up, cortisol production also increases, throwing your body into chaos. So, taking a walk right after dealing with your email will help you to relax, reset, and get ready to be productive for the rest of the day.

5. Reserve Time to Research and Plan a Vacation

By now, everybody knows that taking vacations every now and then can improve your productivity and lower your stress level. But did you know that even thinking about a vacation can help you to reduce your stress? It may sound strange, but it’s true.

A Cornell University study in 2012 found that the anticipation of a positive experience—like a vacation—can reduce stress and make you measurably happier. It logically follows, then, that adding to that anticipation each day can maximize the stress-relieving effects of a vacation.[5]

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To do it, set aside at least a half-hour each day to research or plan an upcoming vacation. You can read about destinations. You can research airfares. You can even look at places to stay in locations you’re interested in visiting. And if you’ve already got a vacation booked, use the time to take a deep dive into what your destination has to offer.

This is an especially important daily ritual to observe right now, while the COVID-19 pandemic may be limiting your vacation options. If it’s been a while since you’ve been able to take a trip, the act of planning your next vacation will have a therapeutic effect. With vacation rental bookings still hovering below 50% in most major markets, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of people are in desperate need of their next stress-relieving vacation.[6]

6. Create a Shutdown Ritual to End Your Day

Another simple yet effective way to manage stress is to create a shutdown ritual. Just as it’s important to get your day off to a stress-free, unhurried start, you’ll want to do the same when the day is through. It’s because after spending each day in a reactive mode—dealing with the unexpected—you need to get back into a proactive mode to relax.

Studies have shown that having the perception of control over what you’re going through acts as a buffer against negative stress.[7] In other words, feeling like you can manage even a small chunk of your own time counteracts the stress from the parts of your day when you can’t.

This also means that your shutdown ritual can be whatever you want it to be. You might write in a journal, get in a quick light workout, or prepare your outfit for the following day. As long as you’re the one in complete control over what you’re doing, anything goes. Just make sure that you include the aforementioned review of your daily priorities somewhere in your routine!

7. Set a No-Screens Rule to End Your Day

Even though your shutdown routine is important, there’s one more ritual to include before bedtime that will help you manage stress. Spend the last 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to go to sleep observing a strict no-screens rule. Not only will this give you time to disconnect from the stresses of your day, but it will also allow your body to make a transition into a proper sleep mode.

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The screens we use—smartphones, tablets, laptops—all emit a wavelength of blue light that disrupts our sleep patterns. It’s the same type of light that our bodies recognize as daytime, so seeing it is like telling your brain that it’s the wrong time to be asleep.[8]

By eliminating all sources of this type of light before bedtime, you’ll increase your odds of getting restful, deep sleep. And since getting proper sleep is one of the best ways to manage your stress, this is the perfect way for you to end each day.

Final Thoughts

Although a totally stress-free lifestyle would lend itself to achieving maximum productivity, not many people will ever manage to live that way. So, the next best thing is to work some or all of these daily stress-busting rituals into your day to minimize the inevitable stress instead. Doing so will put you in the best possible position to succeed. And there’s no better antidote for stress than to make the most out of every day no matter what it has to throw at you.

More Tips on How to Manage Stress

Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

Reference

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