Photo courtesy of Freepik.
“Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” seems like a great idea, until doing what we love, turns what we love into a concerning source of stress.
There are countless resources out there telling us, in various soothing layouts and colour schemes, how to reduce our stress from the daily grind. Most of them have a reiteration of the same advice: practice self care, take breaks from social media, socialize, exercise. The list goes on. For me, this consistent input of how I am meant to reduce my stress can actually add to it, and this ends up being the case for a lot of people.
What am I talking about, adding stress when learning about how to reduce stress? Well, it turns out a lot of workers are experiencing burnout (no surprise) but this can be fuelled by the perception that rest is not a productive state. I know personally, myself and many of my friends and coworkers feel pressured from all angles to be productive in their downtime. Get a second or third job, start a side hustle, invest in a hobby and do it well, exercise for long periods of time, etc. Make that down time work time. But this has a detrimental effect to a number of areas in a person’s life. Not getting quality rest can reduce the quality of work an employee creates, reduce their output in general, and negatively impact their life outside of work through mental and physical health detriments. Prioritizing rest should be the side hustle we’re all trying to implement to make our lives better.
Prioritizing stress reduction through resting well can have a huge impact quickly. Not only does getting a good sleep refresh people for the day ahead, it can provide relief from problems experienced at work, encourage more creative problem solving, and overall prepare an employee for a better day ahead. Going even further, creating a rest schedule (and following it) can provide a structured approach to recharging our personal batteries. Building downtime into routines builds habits, and integrating rest into the daily routine has a positive effect on both mind and body. Humans are creatures of habit, and we thrive when we can use that to our advantage.
Rest looks different for everyone. Some people find energy in going out with friends after a long work week, while others tuck into the corner of the couch with a good book or new Netflix series. How we’re resting doesn’t matter, so long as we truly take a rest. Walking off the job site doesn’t necessarily mean our minds walk off too. The mental energy that stays devoted to projects long after we’ve clocked out for the day can be draining and seriously impact the desire to do things we love, including hobbies, hanging out with loved ones, even going out for a walk can be exhausting after a debilitating day. Habitually shutting out work once it’s done for the day can open those opportunities back up, thus improving mental health and increasing a desire to find joy in the days again.
Exercise is another great option for stress relief, coming in many different forms. Some like to do yoga or tai chi after a long day to decompress, breathe deeply, and appreciate a slow moment. Some like to go for a run, do an intense HIIT workout, or throw some punches during a boxing class to physically vent off some mental stress. However, sometimes the long work days can take it out of you, especially in a physically taxing position. Even taking a moment to breathe fresh outside air can help reset our minds, draw the day to a close, and invite a more calm part of the day to start.
When researching for this piece, I came across truly an unending supply of information around how to best reduce stress. It seemed like the top strategies for stress management changed with every article. People are different, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the other. What’s most important is prioritizing the management of stress and understanding that it is worth prioritizing.
Leaders, when an employee or team is facing down a particularly tricky situation, don’t be afraid to have a moment of quiet after a big move. Take a breath and a moment to connect with your employee; do they need a vent session to blow off steam? A moment to take five deep breaths and reset before the next task gets tackled? By allowing moments of calm in the work day, managers can show up for the mental health of their employees. Truly a two minute moment to reset can help immensely by resetting that person’s internal clock ticking toward a reduction in their mental health state as problems pile up without acknowledgement. While things like creating a schedule and developing time management skills are very helpful, they aren’t the whole battle, and leadership providing the space to address stressors in the ways their teammates require boosts morale, trust in the leader, and overall creates a more positive work environment supported by the empathy of leadership.
What strategies do you use to manage your stress? What are you juggling right now and might need support with planning out some stress management? By valuing and understanding stress management through empathetic responses and creating management strategies to support individual stress reduction, physical and mental health benefits skyrocket. Not only that, but a reduction in continued stress that improves the mental health of reports vastly improves the positivity of the workplace environment, mental health of additional employees can be affected by proxy, and this impacts the quality and quantity of work people can achieve.