The ability to lower your stress and remain calm under pressure is a skill that will place you right at the top. In fact, top performers are skilled at managing emotions and avoiding the little nuisances of everyday life in order to remain calm and in control.
Going to work has always had its share of stress but in the last two decades, a task that should be simple as become a chore far from pleasurable. Work today is more stressful than ever; everyone is in a rush, your boss wants everything done right away and sometimes it is agonizing to work with difficult colleagues.
Today workers are expected to do things a lot faster with less. Other sources of work stress you might have experiences include the continuous pressure to outperform others, disagreements with your colleagues or hires, and little control over your workload.
However, before you even face all these hassles at work, you are already under a lot of stress!
The children have to be ready for school, young kids have to be dropped off somewhere, and then there is the awful commute to work. These days rarely someone lives close to work and commute times are long with plenty of irritable and pushy drivers, who are in a rush.
According to Psychology Today, “The average American spends 25.4 minutes commuting. New York has the longest average commute time (36 minutes), followed by Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta. Workers in metropolitan areas have the highest rates of “mega-commuting,”commutes of more than 90 minutes. San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C. have the highest percentage of mega-commuters.”
It is no wonder that by the time many people reach the workplace they are exhausted and stressed out. Fortunately, you can start your day with the right foot and lower your stress from the moment you start getting ready for the next day.
If you are looking for ways to lower your stress, start to practice with changing little daily habits. Here are ways you can manage or lower your stress on the way to work by applying the following tips:
- Prepare the night before: never leave things to chance. If you have something to do in the morning, get as much as you can the night before. Have the children’s lunch bag ready, have your clothes out, and make sure your car has gas. If you are going to a different location than usual, check your GPS the night before so you know how long and how far you need to go. The more prepared and organized you are, the less stressful your morning would be.
- Have a good night sleep: there is no better way to ease stress than getting at least 7 hours of sleep. Developing good sleep hygiene meaning you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time everyday, even on your days off. This helps set the sleep-wake cycle and you will not feel fatigued when you wake up. Avoid sleeping with your phone or other devices next to you. If you do, turn they upside down.
- Get up with enough time to prepare and groom: if you have to do your hair, exercise, put on make up, take a shower, and make breakfast for the kids, then make it a point of getting up early. This way you will not be rushed into anything. When you rush, chances are that things will go wrong, and create stress even before you have left the home.
- Eat a protein breakfast: many people miss breakfast and then start to look for something to eat in the office because of the hunger pangs. When you are hungry, chances are you will eat junk food and there is no place than the office to find it! Start the day by eating a healthy protein breakfast, as this will keep you satiated till noon. A good protein breakfast will keep you away from sugary cereals, doughnuts and the like.
- Avoid sugars and excess caffeine: If you are going to drink a beverage, keep coffee under control–if you can. Not only does coffee make people hyperactive, it will make you want to pee and if you get struck in traffic, it can be the worst feeling ever. Plus, all the sugar and frothy milk in a coffee only adds junk calories, which adds to your waistline (and I’m a coffee junkie!)
- Check the traffic to your destination before you get out the door: Avoid simply getting into the car and drive to work. Being late is one of the top stressors in our everyday routine –and one unforgivable “bad habit” in American culture. You can get instant traffic news 24/7 on the TV, radio, your GPS and even on your mobile. By taking a few minutes to listen to traffic, you can plan alternate routes if there is an accident or road works.
- Avoid listening to news in the morning: Instead, choose soothing music or a mediation tape. Sadly most of the news today is depressing. If it is not some bombing somewhere, it is something negative about the country’s politics; so ease your mind, listen to soothing music or your favorite meditation tape.
- Park your car away: If you have enough time, park your car one to two blocks away from work so you can have a perky walk to refresh your senses. In addition, this short walk will allow you to stretch your legs, clear your mind and the fill your lungs with fresh air- which is perhaps the best prescription for stress.
- Enter the building with a positive attitude: Go to work thinking of all the good things that will happen that day. Positive thoughts –together with exercise, laughing and other good habits– generate endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. Look forward to each day and think that something good will happen. You can even start by making other people’s day great by making a compliment or asking something kind about their personal life. Be pleasant to everyone because kindness does not cost a penny. If you do good to others, good things will happen to you.
- Surprise your boss by smiling to him or giving him a compliment! You don’t need to be a doormat to make an honest comment to your boss or someone else. Try a smile and people will be automatically drawn to smile back, which can generate a real domino effect of “goodness.”
By becoming proactive, you can help reduce or lower your stress and prevent most of its triggers. Maybe you will not try all at once, but make a plan in your “going to work” routine to start acquiring these little new habits to a better you.