Three Ways to Reduce Work-Related Stress in 2021
December 1, 2020 by Alexis Babiarz
T-shirts, koozies, coffee mugs, and other paraphernalia now available online all proclaim the same thing: On the whole, the year 2020 has been pretty lousy. COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone from shuttered businesses of all kinds to closed schools and painful job layoffs across numerous sectors.
Stress much? Without a doubt!
But as we near 2021, there are steps we can all take to improve our emotional, mental and physical health. Below are three of our top stress-reducing tips to get you to the new year and beyond.
There may be no silver bullet when it comes to improving health, but exercise comes pretty darn close. It can improve mood, increase energy, boost confidence, quicken the pace of weight loss, and help lower bad cholesterol, among other benefits. It’s also a known stress reducer.
“The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis,” according to a recent piece published by Harvard Medical School. “Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts … Popular beliefs notwithstanding, exercise is relaxing.”
To that end, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Some suggestions: Take a brisk walk, do some heart-pumping yoga flows, or download a free workout app (we like Nike Training Club) and do the workout of your choice.
Rather than banning certain food groups from your diet (which rarely goes according to plan anyway), try adding things to your daily list of eats. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish (salmon, tuna and sardines are popular sources), plant oils (think olive and flaxseed) and nuts and seeds (almonds and walnuts, for example) are known mood-boosters.
Of course, while supplementing your go-to meals with some seafood and walnuts will be beneficial, cutting back on some known stress-abettors could improve your mental state even more.
“In addition to inflating waistlines, sugar and other sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses and maple syrup, may contribute to a number of mental health problems” — among them depression and anxiety, writes David Sack in Psychology Today. So if you have a sweet tooth, consider cutting back on your beloved after-meal treats. (Looking for something to occupy you in dessert’s absence? Again, try exercise. Seriously.)
If you’ve got a Type-A personality, you think ‘good enough’ is never, well, good enough. And that may be contributing to your high stress levels. Make yourself a to-do list at the start of each day, and number each item on it according to level of importance (1 for most important, 2 for next most-important, and so on). Try tackling the highest-priority stuff first, and checking it off when you’ve completed it. This will do wonders for your sense of accomplishment and will help reduce your stress levels.
What if you don’t get everything on your list done by day’s end? Remember that we are often our own harshest critics — and give your own personal critic the day (or week, or month) off. You’re a human being, not a machine, and coping with the realities of contemporary, post-COVID-19 life is its own job. Pat yourself on the back for all that you did accomplish, and call it a day.
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