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10 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress at Work

10 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress at Work

A difficult client, a fuming boss, a tight deadline – these are some of the many possible occasions that can make your stress levels soar while you are at work. Needless to say, to find a solution to your problem, being stressed out won’t help you move forward. You need to regain your calm, think clearly, define actionable steps and overcome the problem bit by bit.

Moreover, we all know that stress is essentially bad for us, and has damaging effects on our long term health. Keeping calm and carrying on is more than just a popular internet meme – it’s a skill we all should learn to master.

We are wired to react in a “fight or flight” way, but a grumpy person on the subway is simply not as life-threatening as an approaching lion in our prehistoric days. For this reason, we need to learn to control our reaction to stressful situations and adapt to our modern times that are filled to the brim with stress.

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Whenever you are faced with a situation that can make your adrenaline and cortisol levels spike and your heart pound too quickly, there are a number of actions you can take to bring your stress levels down. None of these actions require more than 15 minutes, and most of them require a simple change in mindset or location, but all of these help you break out of the vicious circle of being faced with stress at work and reacting like a hamster on a wheel.

1. Go for a walk

If you can disappear from your cubicle for a few minutes, head outside and walk around the block. You’ll get some fresh air in your lungs and fresh thoughts in your mind. Did you know that Mandela used to go for a walk every morning to think through the upcoming day?

2. Listen to calming music

Pop your earphones, and listen to some calming music: classical music, new age, post rock – whatever brings you in that blissful state of relaxation.

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3. Follow a short guided meditation

Turn your chair towards a window, or -if all else fails- hide in the bathroom for a few minutes, and listen to a guided meditation on your computer, smartphone or MP3 player. There are many smartphone apps that contain enjoyable guided meditations that can help you bring your zen back.

4. Watch pictures of kittens or puppies

You might think that watching internet memes of cute kittens is a waste of your time or a guilty pleasure, but there’s actually some benefit in watching these adorable young pets. Research suggest that watching kittens or puppies can reduce your stress levels.

5. Have a warm drink

Research suggests that we see other people as more sympathetic when we hold a warm drink as compared to when we hold a cold drink. Moreover, taking the time to get yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee can be that little bit of comfort you need during a difficult moment.

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6. Do a few stretches to get your blood circulating

Refresh your thoughts by doing some quick physical activity. Check out a yoga sequence for your office to twist your spine, or do a few jumping jacks and wall push-ups. Any activity that breaks the rut of overthinking the problem that causes stress in the first place, will have a (temporary) positive effect.

7. Stop by the cubicle of a befriended coworker

Talk to a friend about the situation that upsets you, get a pat on your shoulder or hug when you need it, and feel that heavy weight getting relieved from your chest. A situation can look much less intimidating once you discussed it over with a trustee.

8. Watch your urge, and let it go

Zen masters teach us to sit through our discomfort, to simply watch our urge to start frantically running around, smile, and let it go. Don’t follow your monkey-mind or reptilian midbrain and blindly follow your first instinct. Instead, watch your urge to react then think if your reaction is correct and if this will bring you a step closer to the solution.

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9. Take a time-out in a quiet room

If the general buzz in your office adds to your stress-levels, then seek out a quiet place (for example, an empty meeting room or your library) away from the situation and come back to your inner peace. Being away from a stressful environment of an office and enjoying a more peaceful location can do wonders to your stress-levels.

10. If you are pressed for time: take three deep breaths before reacting

If a reaction is expected from you right away, then allow yourself at least the time to take three breaths before acting or replying. Breathe deeply into your diaphragm to calm your mind and body. Singers, babies and yogis all know the benefit of abdominal breathing. Teach yourself this skill, as it offers an emergency time-out whenever and wherever you need it.

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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