Time Out: 10 Instant Shock Absorbers To Cushion Job Stress

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Taking time out when you’re under work stress preserves your peace of mind and your relationships. Getty

You’ve spent back-to-back hours in virtual meetings. Your manager slugged your inbox with more demands. You’re way behind on an upcoming deadline. You wail at the clock and shake your fist at the heavens. It’s almost quitting time, and your family is just a room or two away. What do you do?

If you’re like most people who find it hard to shed job stress, you dump it on those closest to you. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Think of it this way, your job stress belongs to you—nobody else. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to deal with it, not someone else’s. Before transitioning from a work mindset to personal life, take time out to draw a line between what’s yours to take care of before you enter the life space of those you care about. Here are 10 shock absorbers that cushion work blows and help recharge your batteries before re-entering your personal life:

  1. Before re-entry from a work mindset, take time out for three to five minutes and reflect on all the good things that happened throughout the workday. You mind might want to focus on the stressors, but everyday has something positive embedded in it. No matter how small it might be, pinpointing something positive softens the stressors, brings balance to the work blows and gives you a bigger picture of your workday.
  2. The 20-20-20 rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles for 20 seconds and gives your brain a much-needed respite. Taking short breathers throughout the workday absorbs the cumulative effects of stress. Studies show when you take a Microbreak between meetings—stretching, glancing out a window, eating a snack, walking around the block—it keeps stress from building and the brain a chance to reset.
  3. Talk to your job stressors. At first this might sound odd, but it’s not. Well established science has shown that first-name self-talk—the way you speak to someone else, referring to yourself by name instead of as “I”—is a self-regulatory mechanism that creates psychological distance from anger, stressors or frustration. Once you engage this way in dialogue with your stressors, this shock absorber makes you feel calmer and more clear-minded.
  4. Get outside in nature for green time after prolonged periods of screen time. Nature is restorative. Mounting research shows that 120 minutes a week in nature—parks, woodlands or beaches—clears a fatigued brain and promotes physical and mental well-being. The two hours can be spent in one block or spread out over the entire week to get the shock absorbing benefit.
  5. A broad perspective allows you to build on the many positive aspects of your workday. Think of a camera. You can replace your zoom lens which focuses on the stressors by putting on your wide-angle lens which absorbs stressors by helping you see bigger possibilities. Avoid blowing disappointments out of perspective; look for the upside of a downside situation; underscore positive feedback instead of letting it roll off; focus on work solutions instead of problems; pinpoint opportunity in a daily challenge; refuse to let one bad outcome rule your outlook.
  6. The gratitude exercise helps you see the flip side of the narrow scope your stressors build throughout the day without your knowledge. Make a mental list of the many things you’re grateful for—the people, places and things that make your life rich and full, that bring you comfort and joy. Then meditate on your appreciation for each item and visualize anything you’ve taken for granted—things or people even pets that if you didn’t have would leave your life empty and meaningless.
  7. When you’re overwhelmed, anxious or frustrated or things don’t turn out the way you hoped, bringing awareness into the present moment absorbs the shock. One of the simplest and easiest ways to accomplish this is to use your breath as a focal point to link your mind and body together. Deep breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and focusing on each inhalation and exhalation—following your breath through to a full cycle from the beginning when the lungs are full back down to when they’re empty—keeps you in the here and now as you move through daily work routines.
  8. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, new research shows. Short bursts of physical activity increases blood flow which, in turn, energizes you and clears your mind to prepare for the transition into the second phase of your daily life. So if you’re work fatigued or frustrated, drop to your office floor for a set of push-ups and sit-ups, change into your work out clothes and hit the gym to lift weights or jog around the block and let off steam before you encounter the people you live with.
  9. According to research, as little as 10 minutes of resting or receiving massage is a shock absorber resulting in psychological and physiological reduction in stress. When possible, a nap or massage can be the magic touch to keep stressors at bay.
  10. One final shock absorber that harnesses your ability to calm stress is called resourcing—retrieving a memory or experience that helps you feel better or provides comfort. Simply bring to mind something that sustains and nurtures you such as an image from your favorite vacation place, the face of a furry friend, a success you’ve had or a special time with a loved one. Once you see the resource in vivid detail, redirect your attention to the accompanying calming sensations and hold them in your mind’s eye for a minute or two. Resourcing a positive past experience resets your nervous system, slathers you with slowed breath, reduced heart rate and loosened muscle tension and releases steam, keeping you from blowing a gasket.
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