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Three weird behaviors that help with work stress

Need immediate relief from stress? Read on for three simple things you can do now

Stressed at work? Try wearing headphones
Dr. Nadine Greiner suggests wearing headphones for quick stress relief...with or without music

We all have our quirky habits and rituals. Eating the middle of Oreo cookies before the outsides, cracking our knuckles, talking to ourselves, and the list goes on. Sometimes it seems as if our habits don’t follow any rhyme or reason. But when it comes to stress, our stress management habits do typically have an underlying motive. Here are three stress management habits that, while they might seem weird, actually work. 

1.Wear headphones with no music

Distraction is everywhere in the workplace. Noise is especially irksome. A colleague whistling the latest Taylor Swift song, chomping down on a bag of potato chips, or urging us to weigh in on the latest slew of workplace gossip can easily cause our stress levels to climb. Rather than let your stress levels rise, try donning a pair of noise-canceling headphones. You don’t need to listen to music (which can add more distraction) to drown out the distraction around you. 

When it comes to headphones, the bigger, the better. The more conspicuous your headphones are, the stronger you’ll convey the message that you’re in your zone and don’t want to be distracted. 

2. Fake a smile 

Smiling is powerful. The mere act of smiling helps decrease our response to stress. It lowers our heart rate and blood pressure, and can even extend our life. One study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales actually found that people who were unable to frown as a result of Botox injections were happier on average than those who were physically able to frown. 

While I’m not advocating for Botox injections, there’s real value in faking it till you make it when it comes to smiling. So, even if you’re not feeling overly peppy, showing off your pearly whites can boost your happiness. Obviously, you need to use your judgment. Grinning ear to ear during an intense business review may leave your colleagues scratching their heads. 

3. Plan a trip

It’s easy to get bogged down on work. When we avoid vacations and time out of the office, we become susceptible to high levels of stress and burnout. While you should prioritize a healthy vacation schedule above all else, it’s unrealistic to venture off on a vacation every time you feel stressed. But what if we could reap the benefits of a vacation without leaving the office for days on end? 

It turns out we can! A 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that the mere act of planning a vacation can increase our happiness levels. The anticipation and thrill of the trip can boost our mood. While you won’t get all the benefits of a “real vacation”, simply planning a vacation for the future can help reduce your stress levels in the short-term. You’ll be more effective at saying Bon Voyage to your stress. 

In my book, Stress-Less Leadership, I discuss the importance of travel and vacation as it pertains to managing stress. Did you know that travel expands your creative capacity? It increases our cognitive flexibility, and our ability to make connections between different concepts. Stay tuned for the book to read more fascinating antidotes against stress. 

Stress is difficult to grapple with and difficult to understand. Fortunately, by embracing some off-the-cuff habits, we can stop stress in its track and avoid it from overshadowing our lives and wellbeing. Be unapologetic about taking control of your stress and embrace the bizarre habits that make a difference for you. Oh, and make sure you take the time for real vacations!

Nadine Greiner, Ph.D.is a San Francisco based executive coach, HR consultant, and speaker specializing in stress.  She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.  Her book, Stress-less leadership: How to lead in Business and Life, is available here.

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